Your smaller agency wants to get into fund raising, so you should hire a Director of Development…right? I say, think again. Check in with agencies that have done this. Have they netted new money? I doubt it. Why not? Because fund development must belong to the agency, not to someone you have hired to “take it off your hands.” To be successful in fund raising, development must begin with the board and Executive Director. Only after initial success should you hire someone, and then, the Board and Executive Director must remain involved.
Before hiring a Director of Development (aka fund raiser, advancement officer, manager of donor relations) an agency must have a foundation that supports fund development and an ongoing commitment from leadership to stay involved. Before hiring a fund raiser, both board and staff must completely understand fund development, have a clear idea of how much money they want to raise and what types of strategies will be employed to raise these funds.
Most agencies have too little money to hire an experienced fund raiser. They often recruit an enthusiastic staff member who lacks solid fund development experience. With good mentoring this newcomer could make an excellent fund development officer. However, without mentoring, both the new recruit and the agency are set up for failure.
Inexperienced staff will rarely have the confidence to tell the board and executive director what they need to do to make fund raising successful. Lack of good agency processes and the push to make the position pay off, often lead to a downward spiral of ever worsening donor stewardship, increased focus on expensive event-based fund development and a deteriorating relationship between staff and board. Enter a long line of staff members who take the job long enough to add it to their resume and move on.
To confirm this, simply check out the patterns of employment of entry level fund development staff in any community and you will find they move from job to job. Why? Because they have been set up for failure and the agencies that employ them are throwing away their money.
Here is what you should have in place before starting to write that job description:
- A Vision for the use of the funds which is usually laid out in the case for support;
- A realistic fund development target with a plan to get there;
- An existing relationship with at least a handful of donors;
- Current donations from every member of the board and all senior staff members;
- Agency fund raising policies;
- Agency infrastructure which provide assurance to future donors that the agency is well managed.
- And, most importantly a board and Executive Director that understand fund development.
So, what is an agency that wants or needs to raise more money to do? Invest in training the board and Executive Director and providing appropriate clerical staff to manage the administration of donations and to free up the Executive Director’s time to allow them to be the lead fund raiser in the agency. Once they understand principles of fund development, they may wish to hire staff to manage some components of it. However, to continue to be successful, the Executive Director and Board must remain knowledgeable and stay involved. And perhaps, most importantly, remember, fund development is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time to become a great fund-raising agency. A little up front planning, will ensure long term agency sustainability.
Streamline Non Profit Solutions offers management consulting services for non-profit organizations. Please visit www.streamlinenps.ca