Opening a Can of Worms

Board Members / Leadership Volunteers and Fundraising, Fundraising Management and Leadership, Professional Fundraisers • Views: 14227

Two weeks ago, I asked professional fundraisers to give me their views on a few questions, including this one: Among Board of Directors, Fundraising Committee, CEO and Professional Fundraising Staff, who is primarily responsible for each of the following tasks in your not-for-profit organization? The list of tasks appears below.  I posed the same question to Board Members who volunteer for not-for-profits that employ professional fundraisers.  I was curious about whether leadership volunteers and fundraisers were in agreement on this issue.

557 professional fundraisers responded (thank you!)  While we had a healthy cross-section from highly experienced Directors of Development to front-line staff with under five years in the business, there was no meaningful statistical variation from one group to the next. The Board survey is not yet closed, so I will need to wait one more week before telling you how they answered this same question. In the meantime, though, I am eager to get your feedback on these results.

TABLE 1: Cygnus 2010 Supplementary Survey for Professional Fundraisers Results

Click to enlarge.

Many respondents commented that the wording of our question presented a challenge, as what fundraisers are responsible for and what they think they should be responsible for are two different things. While that is true, this phrasing was intended to force the hand of both paid staff and volunteers on this question, in order to bring the current reality of fundraising responsibility into sharp focus.  I think it accomplished that.

When I saw how my colleagues in professional fundraising answered this question my reaction was, “I wonder if they’ve given up.”  But, your reaction is the one that counts. Please give me your thoughts – then, in next Tuesday’s blog, I’ll publish what Board members said along with some of the insightful comments I received from both professional fundraisers and leadership volunteers.

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14 Responses to Opening a Can of Worms

  1. […] avoidance of responsibility but genuine confusion over who is best positioned to do what.  Opening a can of worms and Do volunteers know what their role is in fundraising? Share this:TwitterFacebookLike […]

  2. Tara Sudbury says:

    Very interesting results. The value is in the story these results are suggesting – and I look forward to hearing your take on it Penelope. First off, I think the results are better then they were had you asked these questions five years ago…so lets endorse for that! 30% of volunteers – Board members & fundraising committee members offering up names for prospects is a big improvement as is 17% of in person and phone asks by these volunteers. Generally speaking one story might read that there is way more back room admin tasks absorbing staff time then there should be in order to reach all the potential donors in a donor centered way. Janie Allens lean Processes are in demand! These results may also indicate thank you calls are still being performed by various people based on the gift size…yesterday’s methodology that we know is less effective then recognizing most gifts personally. Board members are likely most comfortable reaching out to those in their immediate network, but once the staff has identified a broader span of prospects are board members getting the support, inspiration and training they need to feel comfortable connecting with potential donors they are “loosely linked to”? We eat sleep and breath our work, but we can’t expect our Board to as its one of perhaps many obligations they fulfill…. so what are we doing to be board centered, service focused toward each board member as we strive to maximize their ROI to the NFP? I think we are doing better than we have been doing in the past but we still have some tweaking to do around working smarter not harder and the key is starting to look like its in training and structured support of our Board and key volunteers…. Without loosing sight that we are paid for our work and volunteers donate their efforts. So looking forward to your interpretations of both the staffs and boards responses Penolope.

    Thank you.

  3. So interesting. I would agree with many whose comments precede me that this is not surprizing but very sobering. This very topic was the crux of a discussion I had on a fundraising call yesterday. A fundraising program that is heavily staff driven will spin its wheels. It is so important to have the board (top of the fundraising pyramid) engaged and supportive. All FD plans should contain shared goals. I am interested to see the other half of the survey.

  4. Lauren says:

    The results confirm what many of us experience every day. It is extremely disheartening. I agree with Bobbi. How do we balance our passion for our organization and the mission with burn out under the pressure to raise more every year?

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