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  • Writer's pictureRichard Turner, PF International

What does fundraising need to grow?

Why do non-fundraisers need to understand fundraising? And why is this critical for fundraising growth.

There is a misconception that fundraisers need to ‘just get on with’ fundraising.

However, we know that real sustained income growth happens when the rest of the organisation enable fundraisers to perform at their best. Which means the rest of the organisation needs to play its part for fundraising to operate at its optimum.

If you want to raise a lot more – say three, four or five times as much money in the medium term, typically over five years, this is critical. Let’s be clear, I don’t mean advocating for fundraising that compromises integrity or using aggressive techniques.

It’s about removing the biggest blockage to fundraising: Internal conflict.

It’s this internal conflict that can sap energy, waste time, and ultimately lead to fundraisers simply jumping ship. Which is not good.

As evidenced in the Great Fundraising Report by Professors Adrian Sargeant and Jen Shang, as well as from working with non-profits all over the world we can see that there are three areas where these conflicts arise:

The first, unsurprisingly is communications.

Roles outside of fundraising focus on the HOW and the WHAT, and the impact of work. They need to do this to build credibility with service users or government or academics and so on. But so much of fundraising is about the WHY – the problem that the organisation, and the donor is there to solve.

To overcome this you need non-fundraisers to understand how fundraising works and equally importantly what they can do to be supportive, such as being proactive in finding the right stories so the problem the donor solves can be powerfully communicated. We’ve seen great examples of this transition happening from children’s hospices through to complex international NGO’s.

The second conflict area is fundraising investment.

Fundraising is often perceived as a cost – and the focus is on annual budgets and worse still short-term ROI. The challenge here is for the rest of the organisation to understand if we invest in fundraising now there will be much more money later (to reach more people/animals, have a greater impact etc).

This often goes right to the top. Many boards see their role to mitigate risk – not ‘how can we maximise income for the mission?’, and few have had education on how fundraising works and that it needs to be viewed over several years and seen as an investment.

Right now, is a great example – at a time many non-profit organisations are having to think about cutting back because they cannot deliver their services – that doesn’t extend to fundraising. Fundraising is doing well. Why? Well, that’s for another thought piece – but in brief, giving makes people feel good. Hence fundraising, done well, is meeting donors needs at this difficult time.

The third and perhaps biggest challenge is the cultural conflict.

This exists because fundraisers tend to attract a different type of person to other parts of the organisation. They have different values. Once you recognise this you can build respect between fundraisers and the rest of the organisation instead of constantly trying to integrate which will only amplify the conflict not manage it.

These three conflicts need to exist – it’s how they are managed that distinguishes those charities and non-profits who are able to achieve transformative and sustained income growth.

If you want fundraising grow – really grow – educate the non-fundraisers, including of course the leadership and board. So, they can not only remove the internal conflict, which is so damaging to achieving any growth, but get behind fundraising.

This is when fundraising can fly.

Make the understanding of how fundraising really works to the rest of the organisation a key part of your fundraising growth strategy by investing time, and if necessary, money, to do it well, alongside all your external work and communications to attract support.

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