No One Is 'Off the Hook' From Fundraising
Hi, Marc …
As the executive director of my nonprofit, I know I’m supposed to do fundraising. I recently heard I should spend as much as 50 percent of my time fundraising! How in the world can I do that much? My schedule is totally packed with operational fires I need to put out.
— Sincerely, Challenged Calendar
Dear Challenged Calendar,
This is a great question! Executive directors and CEOs have an incredibly challenging job. In my ongoing research with nonprofit executives, they often tell me that boards hire the nonprofit leader to be a fundraiser, but they don’t allow the leader to staff the nonprofit in a way that frees her up to fundraise. As a result, many nonprofit executives find that constantly “putting out fires” crowds out strategic activities like donor involvement.
The problem compounds. When strategic things like donor relationships are neglected, even more fires crop up! This is why donor retention is an appalling 73 percent. Nonprofits in general aren’t building relationships with donors. Executive leaders bear some of the blame for this.
Here are some thoughts to help:
Hiring a fundraiser doesn’t let you ‘off the hook’
I love the way you asked the question because I can see you’re not trying to get out of fundraising. But many nonprofit founders or executives think that they’ll be off the hook if they could just hire a development director. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Donors always want to hear from the head of the organization. And many deserve to.
Fundraising is more like building a relationship than buying a T-shirt. The development director should help you make the best use of your donor time. Ask her for the list of top donors and top prospects. You want to use whatever time you’re able to invest in a mix of both establishing relationships with new donors and growing relationships with old donors.