Does Your Board Understand What the Staff Does?

January 19, 2016

It’s important that your board of directors understands how labor intensive fundraising work is. I say this because I know that the board often pushes the executive director to operate lean and mean. The problem with this is it often stops fundraising in its tracks.

 

Do you have “enough” fundraising staff? If you do, count yourself lucky and a rarity.

 

A major institution like a large university may have a fundraising staff of 75-100 people but still need 50 more to do all that is needed. A small, community-based program probably expects the executive director to handle all of its fundraising needs with little to no administrative assistance.

 

There really isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to this problem. There are some very large foundations that don’t need a full-time fundraiser, while a cancer clinic, for example, with an annual budget of $5 million that raises funds from grant proposals, corporate solicitations, direct mail letters, special events, major donor visits, and planned giving efforts require enough staff to address all of these areas properly.

 

Effective fundraising means targeted marketing and that’s labor intensive. The most effective direct mail campaigns target particular constituencies and change the text of the letters to agree with the interests of those groups. A successful major gift campaign depends on extensive research to determine how much someone might contribute and what his or her political slant is and which hot button issues might come up during face-to-face visits. For this, nonprofits need labor power to generate the needed information.

 

Finally, and most importantly, a board member’s job isn’t to hire fundraising staff but to help the executive director determine the size of the fundraising office and budget, and the appropriate positions within the office.   

 

Does your board exert pressure on you to keep your staff lean and mean?

 

 

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