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10 Challenges Every Fundraiser Must Make to Themselves

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The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) recently conducted a seminar on ethics in our hometown of Indianapolis. During the session, a referral was made to the strongly impactful national study and report by the name of Underdeveloped created by CompassPoint and the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund.

To my complete amazement, only one individual present (not on the AFP Ethics Committee) had heard of this groundbreaking research!

Is lack of curiosity about the fundraising profession systemic?

Later the same week, my good friend and creator of the daily blog The Agitator Roger Craver released a post entitled “In Praise of the Fundraising 6000.

Roger, as usual, holds back nothing as he challenges the legions of fundraisers who do not make the effort to gain additional knowledge and insight – or, better yet, fail to ever challenge the status quo!

Here is an excerpt from his post:

On the ‘lack of curiosity’, or ‘absence of intellectual interest’, or ‘absence of energy’ metrics, as judged by serious Agitator readership, our trade must rank right down there with DMV clerks, baggage handlers, and many nonprofit CEOs — those in trades who get by with under-performing, asking or answering few questions, and suffering little accountability and few consequences for poor performance.

Why is this? This question leads to even more questions.

Why the lack of curiosity in this so-called ‘profession’ of fundraising?

Why the lack of ability to challenge the status quo and fight back?

Why the lack of interest to even help their organizations grow out of the swamp of the conventional?

Why the lack of vision and energy to help their own organizations climb to the mountain top of greatness?

Lots of questions. Few answers.

What concerns me is why does a $300+ billion industry by and large employ a legion of slugs? Uninterested in reading. Unable to think. Unable to question. Unable. Unable. Oops, it’s 5pm … time to go.

Powerful words, and quite a challenge from a leader in our sector, who has seen it all, and is never one to refrain from mentioning touchy subjects.

Why is it that so many in the nonprofit sector follow old customs even if the results being obtained are far from ideal?

Here are just a few of the statistics from Underdeveloped listed below. Do any of these alarm you as much as they do me? Notice the immense impact on smaller organizations!

Development Director Position – Vacancy Lengths

Vacancy Lengths

Development Directors -Anticipate Leaving the Organization within 2 Years

Leaving in 2 Years

Development Directors – Anticipate Leaving the Field of Development within 2 Years

Leaving Field in 2 Years

Fund Development Capacity – High-performing Organizations and Rest of Sample – Comparative Responses

Fund Development Capacity

Board Members Sufficiently Engaged in Asking Individual Donors for Contributions

Board Members Sufficiently Engaged

The report is special because, not only does it spell out the problems, but it also points out the causes as well as possible solutions.

Breaking the vicious cycle

A large part of the solution to both what Roger is seeing and what the authors of Underdeveloped pointed out is reflected in this graph below:

Vicious Cycle

Besides the outstanding steps outlined in Underdeveloped, I fervently believe all of us in nonprofit world, particularly those involved in fundraising must challenge ourselves in a few significant ways. My top 10 are:

  1. To stay informed and up to date
  2. To find top notch mentors
  3. To never stop learning
  4. To look outside the sector for parallels to use
  5. To create successful environments
  6. To establish proper metrics to measure
  7. To establish goals to aspire to
  8. To stay the course until success is reached
  9. To make needed change happen
  10. To share insights with others

My sincere thanks to Andrew Watt of AFP for asking the key question a couple of weeks back in our Ethics seminar. In addition, I must give marvelous kudos to Roger Craver for his hard hitting prose, as well as, Jeanne Bell and Marla Cornelius of CompassPoint for their research and splendid analysis.

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