Fundraising professionals are a unique subset in the nonprofit industry. There is pressure to perform in an ultra-competitive marketplace, and the focus on dollars often removes them from the direct connection to community good that often motivates employees to join the sector in the first place.
Sometimes a unique dynamic takes shape where fundraisers are put in isolation as the sole factor in an agency’s financial health. “We didn’t double our budget this year, so let’s blame Angela – it’s her job to raise money.” Rationale like this neglects the interdependent system necessary for revenue results – demonstrated strength in accounting systems, operations, and program evaluation – yet it is often a reality for development pros.
In speaking with fundraising experts over the past several months, I’ve felt there is a growing sentiment that their expertise is easily replaceable. Such responses are detrimental to revenue efforts, and it is important to recognize the unique value that accomplished development professionals bring to the nonprofit marketplace – the backbone of the more than $400 Billion in charitable dollars raised this year.
As the calendar year winds down and you’re in the heart of your prime revenue cycle, be sure to appreciate the unique skills that fundraising professionals bring to your office, notably:
Precision planning. Working with a highly qualified fundraising pro, be it consultant or staff, gives you instant access to a world of best-practices. While no one can guarantee the specific returns of a comprehensive annual plan or even a single campaign, fundraising professionals remove much of the guesswork from the equation. The upper echelon planners will utilize some form of algorithm to guide implementation and predict results, which will always outperform ad hoc approaches.
Active solicitation. Accomplished fundraising pros have long ago lost any fear of making an ask, if such a discomfort ever existed. This trait alone often separates great fundraisers from standard nonprofit employees; they are not ashamed to steer a conversation into an active pitch for support. Using Greenfield’s seminal 1999 reasonable cost guidelines, it could cost $150,000 MORE for volunteers to raise $1M than for professional major gift officers to raise the same amount, and that’s under the best conditions. Organizations who do not have such valuable commodities on hand leave countless dollars on the table every year.
If you’re facing financial uncertainty because you’re running your nonprofit like a mom and pop business that is not considering key data, begin exploring immediate options for bringing this expertise in house. If you don’t have the resources to competitively commit to staff, consider putting out an outcome-specific RFP to solicit bids from development consultant experts.
If your results are not where you reasonably expect them to be, by all means have focused conversations on how to secure the maximum ROI. No one advocates retaining a failing fundraising operation as absolute rule. Identify the disconnect between expectations and results and determine if this is something that can be rectified or modified in another way.
And if you’re fortunate enough to have talented fundraising staff or consultative relationships, make sure you show appreciation this year. While many professionals take lengthy holiday vacations, fundraisers are hard at work at a disproportional rate during this immensely busy time. Significant growth generally doesn’t happen by accident, and if you’re trending in this direction be strategic in investing in this key expertise for your long-term plans.
About Perry Jowsey
Perry Jowsey, CFRE is a professional fundraiser and featured speaker who has been leading financial turnarounds for more than a decade, where he has generated more than $20 million in revenue specializing in small and financially distressed budgets. Perry has worked with local and international media, foreign government delegations, and philanthropists on the Forbes 400. In unparalleled acts of fundraising success, he has cut costs while producing ROI’s as large as 4000%, leading to features in national trade publications and special invitations to present to groups around the United States. Here is the link to Perry's LinkedIn profile