Nonprofit Strategies

Fundraising is an organization’s job

January 31, 2013 

Barry VanderKelen

The economy is improving and so should fundraising results. A new study by Compass-Point finds that a nonprofit organization may be a greater hindrance to fundraising success than economic conditions.

After interviewing 2,700 executive directors and development directors in the nonprofit sector, the researchers report that many organizations are caught in a vicious cycle of short tenures in the development director position because those staff members don’t feel the organization is committed to fundraising success, which leads new staff to plan early exits from jobs.

The authors point to the culture of philanthropy within the organization. This refers to the organizational values and practices that support and nurture development within a nonprofit. More specifically, most people in the organization, across positions, act as ambassadors and engage in relationship building. Everyone promotes philanthropy and can articulate a case for giving. Fund development is viewed as a missionaligned program for the organization. Organizational systems are established to support donors. The executive director is personally involved in fundraising.

The focus, in other words, should be on raising donors and not raising dollars. A shift in thinking toward raising givers instead of raising gifts will help the organization think more strategically about its development efforts. Clearly raising money is important. But this new way of thinking is focused on the relationship with the giver.

Interestingly, smaller organizations report a stronger culture of philanthropy than larger ones. Smaller organizations are less hierarchical and rely on team work more than larger ones. Because fundraising is less professionalized, everyone perceives its importance.

The report, “Under-Developed: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising,” is at http://www.compasspoint.org  .

Barry VanderKelen’s column is special to The Tribune.

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