Thinking About Culture

on in Fundraising

As in: Social Norms. In Nonprofits. Around Fundraising.

When people segregate the function of raising money from the fulfillment of mission, fundraising fails. It’s as simple as that – and yet so complex to fix.

And the nexus in which all this comes together – boards that won’t engage, executive directors who shy away from the ask, program staff who create a Berlin Wall between program and fundraising – is the office of the development director.

Without a nonprofit “culture of philanthropy,” it’s a hard slog to go it alone. In fact, it’s not really possible.

No wonder the average development director’s tenure is about 3-4 years.

An important report came out last week – UnderDeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising. A joint project of CompassPoint and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, the study started out surveying 2,700 executive directors and development directors to understand the dynamics of the development director’s role in nonprofit institutions.

UnderdevelopedBut while the study walked in through that door, it ended up revealing all the stresses of the development function in small-to-mid-sized nonprofits.

From board discomfort with fundraising…to lack of executive leadership in cultivating donors…to program staff’s unwillingness to identify new sources – this report unpacks the whole ball of wax.

And names names – as in what’s missing in many nonprofits that KO’s the development function before a new development director even starts.

For those of us in the field, it’s mighty sobering reading.

Calls to action include: Embrace Fund Development; Strengthen and Diversify the Talent Pool; Train Boards Differently; Set Realistic Goals and Share Accountability; and, most interestingly, Apply the Transition Management Framework to the Development Director Position.

As in, use the transition moment as an assessment, clean-up and growth opportunity.

The report is worthwhile reading for all of us on the front-lines and behind the front lines.

May it spark a national conversation on what it takes, really takes, to succeed in nonprofit fundraising.

Last modified on