Are Fundraisers Stupid?
I just had another talk with a fundraising director who was getting micromanaged by a nonprofit executive director. She was out visiting sponsors for an event and getting e-mails questioning whether being out of the office was the best use of her time.
This happens all the time.
Even when fundraising professionals specifically ask a question like, “Are you expecting me to simply warm a seat?” in the interview, EDs still seem to freak out when they aren’t at their desks.
Why is this?
I don’t have it figured out. But here are my ideas.
- Everyone else is at the office when they are working. This is probably a big one. For most organizations, butts in seats is visible proof that employees are working. (Or at least are physically present. They may be mentally elsewhere!) Empty seats = no work getting done.
- The ED wants to pop in and ask a question. This has to be frustrating for an ED. Most other employees are available for a quick question. If we’re doing our job engaging, soliciting and stewarding donors, we aren’t at our desks. So when she comes in to ask us a question, she’s reminded that we’re not there — which pops back to the butt-in-seat issue mentioned above.
- Most other revenue is billable. It might also be that fundraising isn’t a consistent monthly income. It usually comes in chunks at different times of the year: in response to direct mail, an event or a major-gift project. It becomes a “receivable” only after it’s pledged. Only then can the ED show it to the CFO or board and feel reasonably confident that it’s coming in.
I don’t think we’re stupid
I don’t think fundraisers are stupid. But I think we stink at “impression management.” In many ways, we need to “steward” our bosses (or boards if they are our bosses) just as well as we steward donors: We need to prove their investment in us is a good one.
Concord Leadership Group founder Marc A. Pitman, CSP, helps leaders lead their teams with more effectiveness and less stress. Whether it’s through one-on-one coaching of executives, conducting high-engagement trainings or growing leaders through his ICF-accredited coach certification program, his clients grow in stability and effectiveness.
He is the author of "The Surprising Gift of Doubt: Use Uncertainty to Become the Exceptional Leader You Are Meant to Be" He’s also the author of "Ask Without Fear!"— which has been translated into Dutch, Polish, Spanish and Mandarin. A FranklinCovey-certified coach and Exactly What To Say Certified Guide, Marc’s expertise and enthusiasm engages audiences around the world both in person and with online presentations.
He is the husband to his best friend and the father of three amazing kids. And if you drive by him on the road, he’ll be singing '80s tunes loud enough to embarrass his family!