Part 2 of a 3-part blog. I hope you read Part 1, published on January 18 in “Simone Uncensored.” And I will post all three parts as one document in my Free Download Library on this website.
In summary, 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.
I hope you are worried! I hope you’ve now 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.
So here are my various and sundry thoughts about why fundraisers leave their jobs.
First, review page 19 of Underdeveloped. Note that executive directors and development officers “often disagree about the fundraising culture in their organizations.” No surprise: chief executives think there is a stronger fundraising culture than fundraisers do. I’m thinking that the fundraisers may be more right.
Mostly, I’m thinking: Has the organization (staff and board members) articulated a shared vision of a culture of philanthropy and a fundraising culture? Does the organization operate in a donor-centered manner and monitor its performance in this arena? Does the organization (staff and board members) understand that loyalty is the holy grail of fundraising?
Then I’m thinking: Does the fundraiser understand all this stuff? Because the fundraiser has to explain all this to her boss, to his board, to staff colleagues. I’m not explaining all this stuff in this blog. But I’ve been explaining this for years in my own blogs, in my semi-monthly web column (“Unraveling Development) for the Nonprofit Quarterly, in my NPQ articles, and in my books. And I regularly recommend bloggers and books and e-newsletters that talk all about this stuff.
Then I’m wondering: How effective is the fundraiser (and the chief executive) at enabling others to understand. You can know something – but you have to make it real to others. You have to explain the “why” not just the “how” to others. You have to engage others to build their understanding and ownership and willingness to change.
You, the fundraiser and the executive director, have to facilitate others to participate. But far too many executives and fundraisers are not effective enablers. See the handout on enabling in my website’s Free Download Library. Read all about enabling in my book Strategic Fund Development. The 2011 3rd edition of this book includes more enabling functions and more explanation.
In my experience, far too many fundraisers (maybe most?) leave their jobs because the organization sees fundraising as a means to get money for mission. Too many organizations don’t understand philanthropy and fund development. Too many organizations – and the bosses and boards and other staff – devalue philanthropy, think of fund development as “dirty but necessary.”
Too many organizations don’t embrace systems thinking and learning organization business theories. Too many bosses, staff colleagues and boards don’t realize that everything in the organization affects fund development and donors. Too many organizations isolate fundraising and the fundraiser. I strongly urge you to read about systems thinking and learning organization theories. I describe these in my book Strategic Fund Development.
Too many organizations see fundraising as a “necessary somewhat dirty activity” to allow the organization to fulfill it’s so very important mission. Too many organizations don’t understand that donors give through your organization to fulfill their own aspirations.
Here are my various and sundry thoughts about bad bosses and boards and board members.
Board members think just because they know their own business that they know the fundraising business, too. But effective volunteer fundraisers are, most usually, effectively enabled by competent fundraisers.
Fundraisers get real tired of fighting about fundraising with their bosses and boards and staff colleagues. So many fundraisers (and consultants, by the way!) are tired of disrespect. So many fundraisers are tired of learning the body of knowledge, developing the expertise, and gaining the experience … only to be denigrated by bosses and boards that think their opinions trump expertise.
Bosses and board members don’t do what the fundraiser tells them to do. Instead, bosses and boards confuse their personal opinion (which is useless unless that personal opinion is based on the fundraising body of knowledge) with expertise. (And, board service does not mean knowledge or expertise!)
Too often, executive directors deny their fundraisers access to board members. And sometimes the development director isn’t allowed to attend board meetings. (If this non-contact and participation is because the executive director doesn’t trust the fundraiser… I understand. But then get rid of the fundraiser! Get someone you trust.)
About your board members: Every single one of them should be required to help identify those who might be interested in your cause, help nurture relationships, help carry out specific fundraising tasks. I’ve written a lot about this in my NPQ web column and in my years of blogging. (And by the way, I believe in negotiating which items on the fundraising menu of choices each board member will do each year.)
If you want successful fundraising, then you have to recruit board members who will adhere to such performance expectations. You have to screen candidates and secure their commitment to performance expectations prior to nominating them. The governance recruitment and training program has to be pretty darn good. The organization has to enforce consequences for non-performance, e.g., fire lousy board members.
If all this isn’t in place, you cannot expect your fundraising program (or your development officer) to be successful.
Here’s another one of my pet peeves: how you prepare your budget and how you define your charitable contributions goal. How many of you organizations set the charitable contribution goal based on how much money you need to do your great work? And then hand the goal (e.g., the gap!) to the fundraising department? Wrong! Setting the charitable contributions goal doesn’t depend on how much you want. See my NPQ columns and blogs about this topic. Don’t create unreasonable expectations for your fundraiser.
Read Underdeveloped to learn about executive director skills and interest in fund development. Hey, I get it that you might not have much experience in fundraising and you have so much else to do (all that agency management stuff), and, you don’t much like fundraising anyway. Too bad! Tough luck. The competent development officer will guide and train you and direct you to participate in fundraising activities. Yes, your development officer will be your boss when it comes to fundraising.
When I first read page 16 of Underdeveloped, I got so angry that I wrote “criminal and stupid!” in the margin. I’m talking about you, Mr. Executive Director. You don’t let your development director influence key organizational activities. And you set goals in the wrong way.
That’s the end of Part 2 of this 3-part blog. Make sure you’ve read Part 1 so Part 2 makes sense. And I’ll post Part 3 in another day or two.