Managing fundraisers? Take a good look in the mirror

It was with great interest that I read the new publication from the Institute of Fundraising entitled Managing Fundraisers, the essential guide to recruiting, developing and retaining fundraising talent, especially in light of Richard Piper’s criticism of it (Don’t waste your time with ‘Managing Fundraisers‘)

At first I thought maybe he was in cahoots with the IoF to get more publicity for the publication. I have been assured that he was not! So I thought I’d blog about how the publication (which, sorry Richard, I do think some people will find very useful even though, sorry IoF, I think you’ve missed a bit) relates to the principles of Sustainable Funding.

If you’ve been avidly following my blogs (ahem), you’ll remember back in February I argued that everyone should be a fundraiser, even the Chief Executive. The gist of my argument was that unless fundraising is the responsibility of a range of people in the organisation – not least the Chief Executive, then the organisation can never be truly sustainable. No fundraiser sitting by themselves at a desk can really fundraise well. No organisation where fundraising is seen as a distinct function can ever really manage their finances properly, especially when ‘fundraising’ can exclude income from trading, or contracts, or social investment.

And this is why managing fundraisers is so hard – because many poor ‘fundraisers’ out there are set the horrific responsibility of single handedly keeping their organisations afloat. When they ‘underperform’ (to use the language of the IoF’s guide) it is very often that they’ve not brought in enough money. Yet ‘targets’ are often arbitrarily set by senior managers who do not think – or act – like fundraisers themselves. And when the fundraiser believes that the target is unrealistic, they are labelled as ‘underperforming’. The organisation tries to manage the fundraiser, rather than managing the budget. Time and time again when I speak to ‘fundraisers’ they tell the same story – of managers and trustees who do not understand fundraising or want to get involved.

In today’s uncertain world, where even the best researched fundraising strategy may not always be successful, this is the real challenge in managing fundraisers – distinguishing between what is in their control, what is not, where the responsibility really lies and where changes need to happen in order to be more successful in future.

This is the complexity missed by the IoF’s guide, and possibly the politics Richard was referring to. However, there is a place for the nuts and bolts of managing a fundraiser, from working out which competencies are relevant to recruiting the right person. For this human resources side of managing fundraisers, download the IoF’s guide. For the softer skills to manage a fundraiser and support them to do a good job, then learn more about fundraising and integrate it into your organisation.

PS: Some helpful places to start…

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Ros is NCVO's lead in Sustainable Funding, promoting a more sustainable, suitable and strategic approach to generating income of all kinds - donations, grants, contracts and trading. @RosJTweets

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