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Fundraising and Organisational Change

Organisations that have won the enthusiastic support of the philanthropic community normally share a couple of key features - they are almost always donor-centric and their fundraising and development is generally fully supported from their governing body, board, council or equivalent, through to CEO, senior management and operational staff.

The governing body's role is to help an organisation survive and thrive into the future. Fundraising and development, including the full exploration of potential sustainable income sources, is therefore a key responsibility of the governing body, especially the Chair or equivalent. The Chair must fully embrace and have active involvement in fundraising. They should help to develop relationships with existing and potential donors and encourage all members of their committee to contribute. Fundraising and development is not a responsibility that can be palmed off to a member of staff or to a consultant - it is a board driven process, albeit one that usually benefits from professional fundraising and development advice!

It is not mandatory for every member of a governing body to make a significant philanthropic donation, although this should be encouraged because as we all know there is nothing more powerful than leading by example, but it does mean they should all help to make introductions and develop relationships with potential major donors. Of course there are exceptions, for example when a member of the governing body is lacking social skills, but in the main the responsibility of cultivating relationships with potential donors is a key function of the governing body and should certainly be highlighted in the job description of the Chair.  

In this context, fundraising and development, particularly ‘donor-centric’ fundraising, can be employed as a powerful organisational development tool. Consider the following:

  • Capital fundraising and major donor campaigns closely involve an organisation’s CEO and board to make introductions and approach potential major donors; and this often requires boards to review their level of commitment, role and effectiveness. Indeed, the process of running such fundraising campaigns often leads to a complete board refresh. 
  • A fundraising program requires an organisation to clearly put forward fundraising propositions and explain why support is being petitioned. If these propositions are tested with donors and other stakeholders on a regular basis, as they should be, this can result in a revision of organisational priorities and key messages.
  • A feasibility study for a capital or major donor campaign generally involves interviewing business and community leaders and collecting feedback about an organisation’s strengths and weaknesses, vision and plans for the future. It is much easier to effect change in an organisation, including in its governing body, when it is driven by the necessity to respond to external feedback.
  • Most capital fundraising campaigns involve recruiting community and business leaders as volunteer campaign leaders. This often provides opportunities to recruit new board members; apply more effective pressure on government for additional support, etc.
  • Engaging major donors in the strategic planning process helps to cultivate relationships with them and generally leads to a substantial increase in philanthropic income. Conversely, the strategic plan for an organisation when developed without consulting important sources of philanthropic income, including existing and potential major donors, is in reality not a strategic plan - in fact it's just a 'wish list' because it is not grounded in reality. 

There are a myriad of other examples in addition to the above list where fundraising and engaging with the philanthropic community can be harnessed to effect positive organisational change. Once the power of fundraising as a change management tool is fully appreciated, it becomes possible to address much higher strategic development objectives and goals when formulating fundraising plans. In fact, it opens up a whole new vista of potential organisational development strategies and elevates the role of fundraising.

The term ‘advancement’ is used by universities to encapsulate the integrated function of fundraising, marketing, communications and stakeholder engagement to shape and achieve strategic objectives and organisational development goals. The term can be borrowed and extended to apply equally well to all non-profits. The fact is that employing donor-centric advancement strategies is a key differentiator, indeed the essence, of all highly successful for-purpose organisations.

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