Why Johnny or Jane Can’t Fundraise

Lately, it seems, I’ve been writing a lot about why fundraisers can’t actually fund raise. There are lots of reasons—from Board members who won’t carry their share of the load to other staff members who don’t carry theirs.

This is not to say that all fundraisers would be raising funds if it weren’t for all those other people. Much of the problem is within ourselves. But a bigger problem is the lack of understanding by the various and sundry powers that be of what it takes to actually raise money.

I know this not just because I’ve worked for over 25 years in this field and you’d have to have your head hidden in the sand not to recognize that fact, but because I tend to read job descriptions.

Here’s part of one that recently came across my desk or rather, computer (and yes, this is just copied and pasted from the actual ad with the organization’s name expunged).

Regular duties include the following. Other duties may be assigned on an
on-going basis:

1. Fund Raising - Establishes short and long-range plan for meeting Organization’s budget needs. Organization’s current goal is to raise at least $3 million per year. Researches, strategizes and orchestrates methods of approach to individuals, corporations, foundations, government agencies, planned giving as well as hosting events. Works with program staff and Board of Directors to develop and implement the strategy.

2. Database and Records Management - Oversees and implements maintenance
of database. Maintains security and quality controls. Generates queries,
reports, exports and any other collection data as needed. Manage any related vendors.

3. Development & Public Relations - Supervises most development and communications matters, for example the creation of various
communications such as the annual report, marketing packets, PowerPoint
presentations, and government and donor relations.

4. Financial Reporting - Interface with team to fulfill information
requests and maintain reporting accuracy.

I might mention that this particular organization has a staff of…are you ready? Three. That means that the development director ends up “supervising” him or herself. Ummm. But even if there is staff—and I’ve been in both places—the person managing all this does not have time to actually do much fundraising. There must be other people dedicated to going out and nurturing the relationships that will result in the funds being raised.

Board members and CEO’s must get regular reality checks so that, perhaps, overtime they will understand that hiring a development director and foisting all manner of related (and sometimes, unrelated) other duties on that person will not result in success. Fundraising is a full time job. Someone needs to oversee all the people involved—those running events, managing the database, writing the communication pieces. And, while I think this person should also be fundraising, he or she should have a small book of business, primarily the largest donors to the organization. The other pieces of fundraising should be handled by development officers dedicated to this or that area.

OK, I’m hallucinating. These organizations are too small to have such a large staff. But here’s the killer: They will remain small if they don’t invest in fundraising.

Studies show that mature development organizations increase fundraising five times with each new dedicated development staff person. The key is the word mature. So start with one dedicated fundraiser and when he or she raises two times his or her salary, add another fundraiser. In this way, your organization can and will grow and flourish. But a second key here is the word dedicated.

One person cannot oversee, manage, plan and implement it all. If you are that one person, you need to document how you are spending your time and make sure that your board and CEO understand what you do and why, and what it would take to raise that $3 million (or whatever fundraising goal your organization has). If you are hiring or managing that one person, understand that you are setting them and your organization up for failure.

Janet Levine is a consultant who works with nonprofits and educational organizations. She can be reached at janet@janetlevineconsulting.com. Her online grantwriting class is available at www.janetlevineconsulting.com/classes.html.