Mandatory Reading For Your Nonprofit Board And Staff

In January 2013, a national study conducted by CompassPoint and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund caused quite a stir in the nonprofit world.  Underdeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising,  is one of the most extensive studies of its kind ever conducted about challenges facing development efforts by nonprofits. A few highlights:

REVOLVING DOOR. Organizations often pin their hopes and dreams for fundraising on one person – the development director. Yet the study found high turnover and long vacancies in this position.

  • Executive directors at organizations where the development director position was vacant said the posts had been open for an average of 6 months. Almost half reported even longer vacancies.

  • Half the development directors surveyed said they expect to leave their current jobs in two years or less.

  • Forty percent of development directors aren’t committed to careers in development.

HELP WANTED. Organizations aren’t finding enough qualified candidates for development director jobs. Executives also report performance problems and a lack of basic fundraising skills among key development staff.

  • More than half of the executives surveyed said their most recent development director search did not produce enough candidates with the right mix of skills and experience.

  • One in four reported that their previous development director was fired.

  • One in four executive directors said their development directors have no experience or are novice at current and prospective donor research and at securing gifts.

IT’S ABOUT MORE THAN ONE PERSON. Beyond creating a development director position and hiring someone who is qualified for the job, organizations and their leaders need to build the capacity, the systems, and the culture to support fundraising success. The findings indicate that many nonprofits aren’t doing this.

  • Almost one in four nonprofits have no fundraising plan in place. One in five have no fundraising database.

  • Three out of four executive directors say that board members are not doing enough to support fundraising.

  • More than one in four executives identified themselves as having no competency or being a novice at fundraising.

  • A majority of development directors reported only little or moderate influence on key activities such as getting other staff involved in fundraising or developing organizational budgets.

This study should be startling to any nonprofit on so many levels and should be, at the very least, a conversation starter for every organization to take a moment and assess their strengths, weaknesses, and potential, but will it? I’m doubtful because most nonprofits focus on the short term goals of meeting quarterly and annual budgets as opposed to focusing on the long term health and viability of their organizations, which includes creating a long term relationships with your donors. When goals fall short, the blame game begins and respect and trust are compromised. Organizations must realize that everyone involved (the Board, the Executive Director, the Development Director, the staff, and the donors) have an integral role to play and that without the cooperation and support of everyone, organizations will suffer.

The study concludes with a list of things that organizations should do to address these challenges. They are:

  • Embrace Fund Development – A Mental Model Shift across the Sector

  • Elevate the Field of Fundraising

  • Strengthen and Diversify the Talent Pool

  • Train Boards Differently

  • Apply the Transition Management Framework to the Development Director Position

  • Invest Strategically in Grantee Fundraising Capacity

  • Leverage Technological Innovation – Embrace Creativity

  • Set Realistic Goals for Development

  • Share Accountability for Fundraising Results

  • Exercise Fundraising Leadership

I would recommend reading this study in its entirety. Here’s a link to the pdf.

At Campbell + Rose, we have experience dealing with these challenges and finding solutions that will work for your organization. And we provide an independent perspective.  Give us a call and let’s start a discussion.

Cheers,
John