Enlisting Professionals for Capacity Building

Community Outreach and Fundraising as an Integral Part of the NPO’s Mission:
Enlisting Professionals for Capacity Building

by David B. Marcu

Those of us who manage nonprofit organizations are frequently involved in resource development and community outreach as significant aspects of our jobs. University presidents, hospital administrators and CEO’s of other non-profit organizations (NPO’s) can and should devote significant portions of their professional responsibility to these critical elements of capacity building. First and foremost, nonprofit professional leaders and managers must recognize that donors rightly want to invest their funds in organizations with which they have confidence and trust, beginning with an accessible and personal connection to their leaders. For this reason, leaders of NPO’s need to see fundraising and community outreach as a significant part of their personal professional vision and practically, of what they do day to day. I, personally, have often estimated that about 50% of my time is spent in these critical organization-building areas.

While this may seem self-evident, it is true that some organizational heads prefer to delegate this function to others. While it is a fact, and a necessity, that many large organizations have development staff, CEO’s who expect major donors and investors to interact mainly with other staff do so at substantial risk to their organizations and to themselves. In today’s highly competitive economic and charitable environment, where funds are even more precious and more difficult to access than in the past, it is simply a fact that donors can choose where to invest their valuable funds. Creating relationships with major donors is “part and parcel” of the CEO’s job.

But there is a role for key personnel beyond the CEO. The role of management and other professionals in the fundraising and community outreach process may be less obvious. The fact is that CEO’s, even of medium-size organizations, depend on professional staff to run programs or manage the direct services that the organization provides. These mission critical professionals, often highly educated and sophisticated, appreciate and greatly desire the benefits that fundraising provides, but sometimes don’t see the connection or that the pursuit of these funds is relevant to their personal job description. Moreover, they see the “interruptions” from the visits of potential funders or stakeholders as bothersome at worst and as a “necessary evil” at best. Organizational cultures that don’t put this view into proper perspective risk not just their access to new funds but the loss of the personal connection that is so critical to maintaining traditional funding sources. The mission of the CEO, therefore, must include engaging his/her colleagues and other professionals in the mission-critical resource development process.

Why? A number of reasons:

  1. Running an organization is a team process. No one can do this alone. Just as the core services of the organization require teamwork and coordination, so, too, does resource development and outreach.
  2. Most donors appreciate contact with the leader of an organization, but no less so desire contact with others in the organization – the people who do the work and make things happen. There is no better way to project an honest and transparent organizational culture than by exposing donors and other stakeholders to various levels of the organization in a non-choreographed fashion.
  3. Leaders of NPO’s are never around at all times. We have many reasons to be away from our offices. Other professionals in the organization must be able to fill in at all times when guests arrive (which are usually coordinated in advance, but not always).
  4. Professional staff has to be aware that their ability to perform their job requires resources so that they will appreciate – and not waste – those resources.
  5. Perhaps most important, raising funds requires a complete and total connection between those who raise funds and those who use them for mission critical services. On all levels, the traditional divide between the “fundraisers” and the “implementers” is over. No one can effectively raise funds without knowing what those in the field need, in addition to knowing how the funds were used. This requires ongoing and vital communications between “headquarters” and the “field.”

As organizations seek new directions and new partnerships, it behooves their leaders to strengthen and enhance the partnerships that already exist in the agency. If “charity begins at home,” the effort to pursue philanthropic funds does as well.

David B. Marcu is the CEO of Israel Elwyn, an organization that provides support services for children and adults with disabilities and their families. He is the immediate past president of the International Association of Jewish Vocational Services, and is a member of the board of directors of the Israel Council for Social Welfare and the professional advisory committee for youth and disabilities of “Tevet”, the employment subsidiary of the JDC.