In short, every hour that we divert a frontline fundraiser from actually being on the frontline results in a potential loss of gift income. For individuals this can mean that the diversion of two hours each week away from the frontline can cost $150-250k in lost gift income (based on MGO salary and gift income goals) each year.
We know that time is constantly diverted away from the frontline. Research shows that, while 54% of frontline fundraisers are expected to spend 75-100% of their time on major gifts, only 34% are actually able and empowered to focus that much of their time on major gifts.
20% of fundraisers whose primary responsibility is major giving aren’t spending a large portion of their time on frontline fundraising.
What gets in the way? It’s no surprise that the top area listed by survey respondents was administrative tasks. Our frontline fundraisers are spending their time attending internal meetings, managing staff, and running low ROI activities such as galas, events, and annual giving appeals. These are not unimportant activities for a program, especially one that is decentralized. However, as fundraiser salaries continue to grow (major gift officers regularly are hired at $90k+ at large institutions) the premiums that we pay as employers is lost on tasks that do not require the specialty skills of a frontline officer.
Moreover, many of the internal tasks that we ask fundraisers to do instead of working with donors are not the tasks that ultimately improve fundraising strategy and results. Road warrior fundraising only works with a comprehensive, high level strategy for engaging donors and strong priorities with high donor appeal. If we are asking fundraisers to spend 75%+ of their time raising money directly with donors, then the 25% of time away from the frontline should be spent deepening the pipeline, refining priorities, and collaborating with colleagues rather than drafting communications, attending management meetings, and being pulled into non-fundraising task forces.
Please note this does not disregard, but rather elevates the importance of back office support and meaningful prospect management, where strategy can create an even greater rate of return for the frontline.