Apologies to Shakespeare… But I’m pondering: Why do we call Fundraisers… well, Fundraisers? Yes we do the action of raising funds … but that is so much only a part of the end result. What we do more than just raise dollars is build long term relationships and help philanthropists deliver on their own philanthropic goals.
In doing that we must do so much more that is often overlooked in the focus on the bottom line.
If you hire a Sales Person for your sales team, you want certain specific things from them in terms of meeting budget goals and building client relationships. And clients hopefully are getting a product they want and need in exchange for their cash.
And yet a Fundraiser often must manage more than you’d expect from a sales person and it’s time we found a new description of this much misunderstood role. As a Fundraiser, if you are to be successful in encouraging others to donate their time, talent and in particular treasure to an organisation, any fundraiser must learn an entire range of skills hidden in the term ‘fundraiser’ .
If you’ve ever met a great Fundraiser then you’d know that we are the sum of many parts. They are often good people managers, good financial managers, have a strong understanding of strategy: can take a helicopter view of a business to understand not just its financial needs but its priorities and urgencies. They learn how to build long term relationships; must learn how to recognise a philanthropist’s needs and goals and try to match them with their organisation’s needs and goals. It’s a tricky, sensitive business and one that takes maturity, knowledge and understanding of the role philanthropy plays in any non-profit business’s success.
Perhaps worrying about the title is a red herring. As with many things, it starts with the brief when a recruiter is starting to look for someone who can raise funds.
1. Forget the title: Look for relationship people – that is those who understand other people AND understand money and how it works within a business.
2. Look for those who understand how to put together a strategic plan and can explain the organisation’s priorities to potential donors.
3. Look for those with a track record – yes, the bottom line does come into it, it’s just not the only thing.
4. Look for a link to your cause. Does the potential recruit really care about what you’re doing.
Just because I started this off looking at the title, I’d like to suggest a few alternative (nice) names for fundraisers:
Chief Relationship Officer; Strategic Prioritiser; Philanthropic Advancer, Bonding Adviser….
Perhaps the US has become more inventive – whatever we call them, fundraisers deliver a very valuable service to our non-profits and I believe it could be time we gave a higher recognition to their varied skills. They bring more to most organisations than just dollars. But as a ‘Strategic Prioritiser’ myself, perhaps I have a bias view. Over to you.