Fight of the Fund-Raisers! Part Two

In the last article RSC looked at some of the reasons why so many development professionals are either leaving or wanting toleave their current position.  In this article we’ll look at what your organization can do to attract and keep top-notch, productive fund-raisers.

As a quick recap from the last article, let’s touch on these three areas:

Fundraising is a team sport. 

Along with the Chief Development Officer (CDO), the board of directors, the development committee and CEO each have crucial roles to play in the organization's fundraising success.  Part of the CDO’s job is to pull the team together so that there is a concerted effort, shared responsibilities and shared victories.

Many organizations don't define the type of CDO they need – mostly because they don’t know that there is more than one “type”. RSC believes that there are two main types: the “major gift officer” and the “tactician”.  Although both types are goal-driven, they are very different – and rarely will you find a person who strongly possesses both talents.

“Major Gift Officer” CDOs like to cultivate relationships and ask for money – nearly all the time.  That’s great, but they only have so much bandwidth and they can develop only so many relationships before they are maxed out.  Then what?  How does the rest of the fundraising program mature? 

Well, if you have a strong support staff, your organization may be primed for a “major gift officer” CDO. The fearless fund-raiser spends time courting your highest yielding prospects, and the support staff “supports” the running of the overall program.

The “Tactician”, is strategic. They know how to develop people, plans and systems to get a specific job done within a give time frame, but they are often not the “asker”. They need a team to be the mouthpiece.  They just need that team from Day One – so if your organization isn’t “team-centric” then don’t hire a tactician to raise money.

Whether it be “immediately” or “eventually”, the CDO, regardless of “type” needs a team – each just uses the team a little differently.  No matter how uncomfortable the board may be in the act of fundraising, they have an essential role in the process and must look to the CDO to be their leader – but they must be willing to follow. Conversely, the CDO must assume the leadership role.  Effective fundraising teams are built by each person recognizing and embracing his / her role.

Goals should be achievable, based, at least in part, on historical accomplishments.

Setting income budget goals has a myriad of variables predicated on the previous year's budget performance, predictable attrition, and reasonable gross growth targets. Combined, these equal a net gain that represents the new goal. Once finished – that’s the goal, don’t add another 12% because you need it. If you do, you've now entered budgetary “Fantasyland”.  If exceeding the goal becomes possible, terrific, but don’t keep moving the goal out of reach.  Exceed it, celebrate and keep moving forward.  If the development team feels like they can’t have a “win”, no matter how much they raise, then burnout begins.  Make a winnable situation for your entire organization by first making a winnable situation for your development department. 

Be prepared to invest in the program, not just the person.

Lastly, invest in your development efforts. Understand that old axiom that it takes money to make money – because it does. A low “cost to raise a dollar” is great, but it usually means you aren’t broadening your donor base, which will eventually choke off fundraising because you’ll be left with a few “high gift average” donors and no one to replace them with. No replacements equals no sustainable future. Invest in cultivation, in telefunding, in expert consulting assistance – whatever helps your organization and the CDO take the program to the next level of performance at a reasonable cost. Success begets satisfaction – so make the investment.

Don’t fail your CDO and they won’t fail you. Find the right “type” of fundraising professional for your organization, set realistic goals, invest in them, and allow them to build a team.  That’s how you keep a CDO engaged, and productive. 

RSC can help coach your organization’s board and staff on how to establish and engage staff and volunteer leadership, and build a successful fundraising program. If you would like to learn more about how RSC successfully helps arts and cultural organizations reach their fundraising goals, call us today at 317.300.4443 or visit our website.

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