Well, no. This isn’t really about boards. It’s about staff. Particularly development staff. What is the role and what are the responsibilities of the development director? I sit through a lot of meetings where it is clear that no-one, including the DD him or herself, has given this much thought.
Let’s start with the big picture: The development director is responsible for coordinating and facilitating all fundraising activities of the organization. They are the manager, the juggler, the person who should know everything that is going on as it relates to fund development.
This knowledge, of course, doesn’t come miraculously out of the air. This means that the development director must be privy to and part of executive decisions made at the staff and board levels. If the development director doesn’t sit at the ED’s right hand, isn’t present at board meetings, isn’t able to call on board members for individual meetings and conversations, the development director will not be able to do his or her job.
The job, of course, is a bit akin to being a conductor—ensuring that all the players are in harmony and where soloists are supported so they can shine.
Conductors rarely improvise. And even when they do (or encourage players to), it is within a planned context. For Development Directors, this is the plan that outlines what techniques will be used for what purposes, and within those techniques, what moves will be made by whom.
Over the years, I’ve heard too many fundraisers tell me they can’t fundraise because they haven’t been told what they are fundraising for. While that is a failure of management, who should be providing leadership and strategic vision, it can also be a barrier the fundraiser creates all by him or herself.
Waiting for someone to give you information is not the sign of a successful fundraiser. Make it your business to know what is going on in your organization. At the beginning of each fundraising year, develop your fundraising goals. Yes, it’s best to do this with your leadership, but to ensure that these are goals you can live with, consider drafting them first and then approaching leadership. This is also the time to state, “With the current resources, this is what I believe we can do. If we need to raise more, we also need to increase the means we have to raise more money.”
To figure out your goals, consider first how much it costs to run your organization as it is today. What new initiatives are coming down the pike? Are they ongoing (as in new staff or programs) or one-time (such as a remodel)? Put these in separate columns (operations or specific projects). Now consider what your expected streams of revenue are. These too should be divided into operations or unrestricted and specific or restricted. Note that these streams may not be 100% guaranteed but they should be amounts you can reasonably expect.
Now you must consider how you will make up the difference (if any!) between what is needed and what you are already bringing in. Fundraising is usually a big if not the only way to do this.
Your fundraising plan then looks at what you regularly do—and how you can increase that. And then it looks to other ways to increase fundraising results.
Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to increase fundraising results. Learn more at www.janetlevineconsulting.com. While there, sign up for the free newsletter and contact Janet for a free, 30 minute consultation.