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The 5 stages in building a fundraising team

Fundraising alone is really not the best way to do this difficult work. You need a team. A team is much more effective in fundraising because team members can exercise different roles and skills. A team, once formed becomes something much more than the sum of its parts.

The problem is that teams take time to form. Teams will almost always go through certain stages in their formation. I am often surprised how few of us who do fundraising are aware that groups and teams form in a recognisable series of overlapping stages. Teams need time to form.

We have Bruce Tuckman to thank for describing these stages. Professor Tuckman was an American Psychologist based at Ohio State University. In 1965 he published an article describing the four stages of group formation; forming, storming, norming, and performing. The original article is 16 pages long and well worth a read. Later, in 1977 he added a fifth stage called "adjourning" to describe the process of closing down a group.

It is worth going over these 5 stages briefly here because it will help you to understand the common human processes of group formation that fundraising teams must go through in order to be effective.

Stage 1: Forming

Tuckman suggests that at this first stage in group formation, members engage in testing; "... The term "testing" refers to an attempt by group members to discover what interpersonal behaviors are acceptable in the group..." Often newly formed teams find its members spend time finding out about each other and learning to appreciate each other. Doing this stage well is important if the team is going to survive the next stage.

Stage 2: Storming

Tuckman found that a second stage in the development of groups involves increasing conflict; "... Group members become hostile toward one another and toward a therapist or trainer as a means of expressing their individuality and resisting the formation of group structure. Interaction is uneven and "infighting" is common." Issues of power and control come to the fore in this stage of team formation.

Stage 3: Norming

Over time, Tuckman suggests, groups come to a point of acceptance; "Group members accept the group and accept the idiosyncracies of fellow members. The group becomes an entity by virtue of its acceptance by the members, their desire to maintain and perpetuate it, and the establishment of new group-generated norms to insure the group's existence."

Stage 4: Performing

Once the group formation has been achieved, Tuckman argues that the group, as an entity, can now work to achieve its goals; "The group, which was established as an entity during the preceding phase, can now become a problem-solving instrument...Members can now adopt and play roles that will enhance the task activities of the group, since they have learned to relate to one another as social entities in the preceding stage."

The diagramme below shows the stages and how, often, the group returns to the storming phase to adjust and respond to performances

Stage 5: Adjourning

All things come to an end. Teams end once they are no longer needed. This is the point in a group's life where it dissolves as a group and its members go their separate ways. It involves some emotional grieving and some feelings of relief.

So where is your fundraising team in this process?

Get advice by contacting the Brickless team.

Tuckman, Bruce W. (1965) ‘Developmental sequence in small groups’, Psychological Bulletin, 63, 384-399. Accessed 27th July 2023.


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