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.