Big news but no surprise…vicious cycle that stops you from raising money, Part 1

January 19, 2013

Part 1 of a 3-part blog. I’ll be adding the next parts throughout this coming week. And I may even post all three parts as one document in my Free Download Library on this website.

Part 1

Here’s the scoop: Development officers quit. Bosses fire development officers. Boards don’t play. Organizations don’t get it. This vicious cycle threatens financing of the sector. And, this has been going on for years and we aren’t really fixing it.

Hmmm…. Anyone worried yet? Read Underdeveloped, a newly released study. And read the articles about the study in The Chronicle of Philanthropy and in the Nonprofit Quarterly on line.

Compare the research findings to your organization. Compare the research findings to the fundraising profession. Compare the research findings to you as a fundraiser. Step back and look at the nonprofit sector as a whole.

I hope you’re worried. The research in Underdeveloped isn’t a surprise to anyone that I’ve spoken with. The research isn’t a surprise to the trade publications, to fundraisers, to consultants. So why haven’t we fixed it yet? I’m not sure why. Seems too big a problem? Not really. Laziness? Maybe we’re focused too much on getting quick money for mission rather than making changes required to raise more money over time.

I think one big problem is because too many people – in particular bosses and boards – don’t believe there is a body of knowledge. Yet, there is. And being ignorant of it is a self-inflicted wound that slowly kills.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.

First. You. Read the report. Who is “you”? Everyone. Bosses and boards, read the report. Development committees, read the report. Professional associations, read the report and figure out how you can better develop professionals. Bosses, figure out what you are going to change in your organization to make fundraisers want to stay and work with you.

And fundraisers, read the report. Make sure you understand what the job is. Make sure you know what it takes to do the job. Learn the body of knowledge. Develop your fundraising skills. Develop the skills necessary to assess what is happening in the organization so you can lead the change process. Read my thinking in Strategic Fund Development: Building Profitable Relationships That Last, 3rd edition.

Hey, you fundraisers, decide if this is the work you want to do. For just a second, look in the mirror, and just be honest.

Read Underdeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising. This study, released in January 2013 by CompassPoint and the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, provides useful information to fundraisers, bosses, and boards. Check out the articles in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, January 13, 2013, and in the Nonprofit Quarterly, January 19.

Follow the comments from experts in the field. Lots of people will write about this report. I’m writing about this report. This will be my first blog on the report – with more to following in blogs to come.

By way of background, my comments are based on the following expertise and experience: Working as a professional in the sector since 1975. Served as an executive director with no development staff. Served as a chief development officer. Founded two nonprofits. Regularly serve on boards, often chairing the development committee, chairing the board, etc. Beginning my 26th year as a fulltime consultant specializing in fundraising, board development, and strategic planning. Working with all types and sizes of organizations. Presenting all over the world. Learn about me on my website.

So here goes, my thoughts about Underdeveloped. Maybe you want to use my thoughts along with the report to make change in your organization and in you.

First: Why does this report matter? Because nonprofits could raise more money if they had more engaged organizations, supportive bosses, board member participation, and adherence to the body of knowledge.

I believe that nonprofits deserve more money to do important work. But only if nonprofits do fundraising well. More and more I tell nonprofits, shut down! Close if you cannot do the basic fundamentals of fundraising well. Quit whining about how you don’t have enough time and the work is hard. Quit whining that you must focus on mission and clients and fundraising doesn’t warrant focus. Just stop it

I believe that the nonprofit sector is critical to a democracy. I believe that charitable support – through financial investment and volunteer time – is critical. But financial investment isn’t growing. Just read the 2011 Growing Philanthropy in the United States Report, by Adrian Sargeant and Jen Shang. For the past 40+ years, annual U.S. giving is estimated to be only 2% of average household disposable giving. That percentage has not changed. Even in the economic boom years, that percentage doesn’t grow. Giving remains static.

That’s pretty sad. And we cannot blame our citizens. The nonprofit sector – its fundraisers and bosses and boards – just don’t do fundraising that well. This is our challenge and our opportunity. Read the Growing Philanthropy Report. Compare your performance as a fundraiser, as an organization. Read Underdeveloped in partnership with the Growing Philanthropy Report.

Revolving door: Instability in the Development Director Role

It’s bad enough to know that development directors often stay only briefly. It’s quite another thing to read the actual numbers about length of vacancy in filling the position: 6 to 12 months or more. It’s even more stunning to read that 50% of responding development directors plan to leave their jobs in two years or less. (Executive Directors plan to stick around longer!)

Why are development directors leaving? Some just don’t like the work. It’s just a job. So when you interview candidates, find this out. I recently helped an organization interview candidates for the chief development officer position. The organization used me to ask the right questions about fundraising body of knowledge and expertise and experience. But the organization knew the right questions to ask about commitment and leadership.

But I’m much more interested in the comments about how bad it is to work with some nonprofits. That’s what I observe as a consultant: the dysfunction and lack of readiness on the part of bosses and boards to create a culture of philanthropy and a culture of fund development. I get regular calls and emails from fundraisers who are tired of fighting and trying to make change within their organizations.

That’s the end of Part 1 of this 3-part blog. I’ll post Parts 2 and 3 during the week of January 21. The next two parts of this blog include the following topics: My various and sundry thoughts about why fundraisers leave their jobs. My various and sundry thoughts about bad bosses and boards and board members. My thoughts about fundraisers who don’t know the body of knowledge. And a few other thoughts, too.

So read Underdeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising. And figure out how you are going to change and help others change, too.

About Simone Joyaux

A consultant specializing in fund development, strategic planning, and board development, Simone P. Joyaux works with all types and sizes of nonprofits, speaks at conferences worldwide, and teaches in the graduate program for philanthropy at Saint Mary’s University, MN. Her books, Keep Your Donors and Strategic Fund Development, are standards in the field.

Simone Joyaux, ACFRE, Adv Dip, is an internationally recognized expert in fund development, board and organizational development, strategic planning, and management.

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