Who Should Raise The Money? – Part Two

Sections of this topic

    (Continued from Last Week)

    Surely, anyone can see that there is a huge difference between selling a Ferrari, and “selling” a nonprofit institution.

    The automobile salesperson is responsible for selling cars.

    In “selling” a nonprofit institution to its (potential) donors, the development professional has the dual responsibility, along with volunteer leadership, for helping to keep a community asset healthy and strong for current and future generations, and for helping the donor satisfy his needs through his giving.

    It’s that simple. One is about the value of a “product,” and the other is about what we value in life.

    I’ve been fighting this development-as-sales battle for many years, and I fear we are all losing ground with the growing trend of having boards of trustees believing that fundraising is someone else’s responsibility, and development staff too often willing, or forced, to take on the role of solely or mostly being “the” fundraisers for their institutions.

    “Meet your goal this year, then see next year’s goal set arbitrarily higher.” “Make it, or else.” Burn out, high turnover, reduced opportunity for building long-term relationships, and a weakening of the profession, are but some of the long-term consequences when a development staff becomes a sales staff.

    There are, of course, some who do star in their roles as institutional staff solicitors; but, when they leave … and they will in time, they almost always take with them their personal donor relationships, and other contacts and resources. This results in having the new staff person, their replacement, being in the position of starting from scratch.

    We cannot continue to go this way and succeed (as per Willie Loman) with mostly a “smile and a shoeshine,” making the “sale” for today, but not being given the time and resources to build for the future.

    I’ve had numerous communications with frustrated and frantic development professionals lamenting that they are not at all able, or desirous of being their institution’s fundraiser of first resort. Many of those professionals have become so, by order of their boards or by having it imposed upon them by their supervisors. If this continues, I fear we could be seeing the death of a profession, as we once knew it.

    And, it all goes back to the Boards of Trustees and other volunteers. Volunteers are the lifeblood of a development operation, and board members are the most important volunteers of all.

    My favorite mantra: “There is no greater strength in a fundraising campaign than a board ready and willing to lead. There is no greater weakness than a board that sees fundraising as someone else’s responsibility.”

    Have a question or comment about the above posting?
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