Driving Philanthropy: Charitable Contributions Officer

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    This posting by: Hank Lewis

    There are two steps to take in answering that question.

    The first is asking, “Who cares?” Isn’t what we call that person largely irrelevant? Isn’t that person going to do what has to be done, no matter his/her title?

    Definitely not !! We are greatly affected by how we are labeled. Titles are important to people because they impact both self-image and how others see us. With the “wrong” self-image and/or the “wrong” face to the world, our effectiveness must suffer.

    The second step involves defining/understanding that person’s role/job.

    So, here we start with the concept of development – the process of identifying potential donors, sparking their interest in the organization, identifying the needs of those individuals, determining how giving to the organization can satisfy those needs, helping to build a bond between them and the organization, and growing that relationship.

    The bottom line, development is about creating, maintaining, and enhancing the relationships that lead to charitable contributions. Fundraising is merely the end result of the development process. Without relationship building and the satisfying of donor needs, there can be no real/substantive fundraising.

    Now, having gotten that out of the way, let’s look at some of the titles commonly used by nonprofit organizations:

    The title to which I object the most is Director of Philanthropy. Aside from that being a really pompous designation, the reality is that you don’t/can’t direct philanthropy. Philanthropy comes from the individual. Philanthropists give because of their desire/need to help other people … or society in general. Those feelings are internally generated, not such that someone can direct them.

    Director of Charitable Giving: I’m sure that everyone has heard the expression, “Charity Begins At Home.” Well, the organizational staff person can show potential donors possible places/programs where they can put their money. S/he can show them how their giving can make a difference, and how it can help others, but, as with philanthropy, you can’t direct charity. The word, “charity,” is also so very passé.

    Of all that I’ve heard, I like “Director of Development,” because the focus is on the building of relationships, but that’s become a euphemism for “fundraiser.”

    The Staff Person-In-Charge of Raising Charitable Contributions can (personally or through others) show a potential donor how making the gift will not only help other people but will satisfy the needs of the donor. The key to successful fundraising, however, is getting the donor to want to make the gift.

    So, what do we call that staff person whose job it is to get the donor to want to make the gift? Not somebody who directs fundraising; not someone who directs philanthropy, not a director of charitable giving; maybe not even a director of development.

    There’s also “Director of Community Relations,” “Director of Donor Relations,” and “Director of Constituent Relations.” The first seems so very broad, even encompassing institutional marketing; and the second and third seem to come after the fact.

    Finally, Sophisticated (potential) donors know that a nonprofit organization has to raise the funds to run its programs … to help the people it serves. And, they know that whatever the title, the person “cultivating” them is working to move them toward a specific end result.

    The answer to the question, therefore, is that the Staff person in charge must have a title that is comfortable for (prospective) donors, unpretentious, and satisfying to the Staff Person.

    What do you think it should be ?? Why ??
    Have a comment or a question about starting, evaluating, or expanding your fundraising program? With over 30 years of counseling in major gifts, capital campaigns, bequest programs, and the planning studies to precede these three, I’ll be pleased to answer your questions. Contact me at AskHank@Major-Capital-Giving.com
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