Something Worth Reading: The Chronicle’s “Ask an Expert: New Fundraiser Lacks Experience, a Budget, and Organizational Support”

I stumbled over this blog post today at the Chronicle of Philanthropy. It’s worth reading – Barron Segar of the US Unicef fund offers advice to a newcomer to the field of fundraising who, for some reason, has been tasked with running a full fundraising initiative separate from the organization’s larger development officer. Mr. Segar offers good advice to the newcomer regarding an upcoming event, resources for small scale training, and beginning to manage prospects, but his best advice comes at the end: 

Join the fundraising department. Finally, you have to be part of development, rather than competing with that team. The optimum thing would be for the development director to bring you into that department. If you cannot approach the development director because that person is not your supervisor, then try talking to your program director. As a peer of the director of development, your program director may be able to talk about the challenges you face by operating in isolation.

This touches on something that pops up in many non-profit institution. Competing with colleagues over prospects, fundraising resources, and leadership attention works against the interests of all development programs and the institution in the long run. An immediate inefficiency in this sort of division can be found in the unnecessary redundancy in resources, database tracking, prospect management, and staff time.

A larger issue with competing development programs within one institution is rooted in the fact that donors do not look at DOs or leaders from different programs as independent actors;  donors and prospects view non-profit staff members first and foremost as institutional representatives – the department is secondary to that role regardless of whether a person works in development, alumni/constituent outreach, the front office, support staff for leadership, or program implementation.

This is not to say that those big organizations can not have multiple development programs (it makes sense, for example, for a medical school/hospital to have a separate program from a university’s regular development programs), but rather that development staffing programs should complement each other and have clear, open channels for coordinating efforts with prospects and utilization of top leadership.

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