Why You Need a Fundraiser

Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - 09:24
In this article, the author focuses on the importance of having a fundraiser and the benefits this will have to nonprofit organisations

In the world of profit where numbers determine success, it is well understood that a good sales team and a good product are the backbone of financial riches.

Yet in my experience many nonprofits in South Africa do not have a dedicated fundraiser or a fundraising team.

Fundraising has become a task that is added onto the collective duties of the chief executive officer (CEO) and then distributed to various individuals who show flair and personality in the wider team. These folk can be programmes people, financiers, the receptionist, volunteers - anyone really.

Their only flaw is that they are not dedicated fundraisers. They can pepper conversations with phrases like wills and legacies, individual giving, endowments and the other approaches that shape the jargon of funding. But without someone who has the know-how or the experience, these conversations remain just that - ideals of strategies we would like to have - but just do not have the manpower or budget to secure.

In times of difficulty, this lack of investment in fundraising becomes stark to many organisations. The one hard to acknowledge truth is that fundraising takes time, which is why fundraisers are difficult people to justify on your stressed payroll.

This is odd, as they are the only people in your organisation who bring in money, rather than spend it. Yet, if your new fundraiser is not generating record income within the first three months, boards get tetchy, CEOs wonder why they are paying someone else to do a job they did perfectly well, and your fundraiser quickly falls from grace. And soon the organisation is back to scrabbling around for financial scraps rather than developing and implementing long-term income generating strategies which make sense of those phrases; individual giving, endowments, wills and legacies.

So what do you do?

My first advice is to recruit a fundraiser. If your budget does not allow, look for the person who has the personality on your team to best represent your organisation. It is advisable to clear their diaries so that they can focus on fundraising for at least the next six months.

Recognise also that fundraising is a bit of a dark art. It is not something you go to school to study. There is no neat Fundraising MBA or Diploma that sits on your wall and declares your immediate success.

Instead it is a job description that is anchored in personality. It requires; excellent communication skills, a deep understanding of your organisations services and why these are essential, great networking ability and an understanding of what you need in the long-term. Nurture these skills, and you will see the rewards.

Fundraisers should also be members of senior management team. It is essential that they are part of the forward thinking and problem solving of the organisation. Fundraising is also one of the few positions that will interact across all teams - working closely with programmes, finance, administration, the CEO and with the board.  They must work at this level in order to know the organisation and represent it with confidence.

Finally, change the way you see your fundraisers success. Fundraising is more than just money in the bank. It is about building your brand and marketing the need for your service. It is about developing and building a list of people who are interested in your work and connecting with them. It is about balancing unrestricted and restricted funding. It is about building and managing relationships. It is about the detail - the thank you letters, the Section 18A’s, e-mails and website updates.

If you measure the success of your fundraiser on more than just the amount of money they manage to hustle out of people each month, you should start to see the value of having a fundraiser.

A nonprofit without a fundraising team is like a business without a sales department.

That is just odd.

- Kerryn Krige (ayandamalindi@yahoo.co.uk) is former director of communications and income development at Child Welfare South Africa. She has over 10 years experience in the nonprofit sector managing programmes before morphing into fundraising. She is passionate about building a stable civil society by strengthening the performance of nonprofits in South Africa.

Author(s): 
Kerryn Krige