Following last week’s column that focused on the role of the fundraising consultant in the non-profit organization I received a question that seemed somewhat strange at first, “Is there an added value to non-profit organizations engaging in fundraising activities or is it all about the money?” Of course the primary purpose of engaging in fundraising activities is to increase the organization’s voluntary contributions and donations as well as grants from foundations. However, what is the added value in the agency’s involvement in strengthening its donor base, in soliciting new contributors, and actively looking for support from private and corporate foundations?
Of course I may be an optimist and I tend to look at the cup as half full and not half empty. I believer there is an added value to engaging in activities to strengthen the organization’s financial resource development (FRD) function. There is an impact both on the internal functioning of the organization as well as the agency’s relationship with people and institutions in the community.
The first step in developing a FRD program is to clarify the organization’s purpose and the rationale for providing services to the community. Once this is done it is possible to develop a strategic plan for its FRD program and it should include both the volunteer leadership and the professional staff. The strategic plan often reflects both what the agency is doing today as well as what it hopes to do in the future.
The process of developing the strategic plan for the FRD program often provides an opportunity to strengthen the commitment of the volunteer leadership to the organization. This is accomplished by involving them in thinking through what has to be done to increase the community’s awareness of the agency’s purposes and services. Often this process has an unintended impact on the organization’s leadership and it strengthens their commitment and resolve to implement a successful FRD plan. Through their participation in the planning process they learn more about the agency and the community’s needs. As a result they feel more confident in their decision to be involved in the organization.
The volunteer leadership group becomes a strong supporter due to their involvement in the FRD strategic plan and this can have an impact on the entire board of directors. When the FRD committee reports to the larger group and the board members hear their enthusiasm this can be contagious. In all likelihood it has a positive impact on the way the board members view their own roles and how they can increase the agency’s resources.
This process has the potential to strengthen the internal workings of the organization and the role the volunteer leadership plays in fundraising, in particular, and in overall governance, in general. It can be an unanticipated consequence of a well developed FRD planning process. It goes without saying that it would be better to have thought it out and planned for increased commitment of the volunteer leadership, however, there are times when we learn from the process.
The organization’s professional staff is an important partner in the FRD process. The more the agency’s Director of Development, or the outside consultant that is brought in to assist in the FRD function, involve the broader staff in both the planning process and in implementing the FRD program the more they will identify with these efforts. The professional staff is a source of support to the volunteer leadership and those staff who have direct fundraising responsibilities. By conceptualizing the FRD function as everyone’s responsibility the agency can strengthen its own “social fabric”.
Staff members are like threads woven together to reflect the highest quality professional services provided to the community. If they feel they are an integral part of the organization and not just service providers they represent the fullness of the agency’s commitment to the community. This works to strengthen their presence in both the agency and in the community and their commitment to the FRD strategic plan and fundraising campaign.
They are not only motivated to support the volunteer leadership but also to become actively involved in the FRD activities in appropriate ways. They may be called upon to speak publicly at events or to have private conversations with donors and potential donors who may have specific questions or would like additional information about the organization’s programs and services in greater detail. This involvement reinforces their commitment to the agency and to the need for a successful FRD program.
Thus, a well developed FRD strategy and program can strengthen the connection between the volunteer leadership and the professional staff with the organization’s purposes and programs. This works to solidify the internal workings of the agency and in turn, it will have an impact on the image the organization projects in the community. The alignment between the organization’s mission and the message that is communicated by those who are in volunteer and professional leadership positions strengthens the agency’s image in the community.
When your agency is developing its fundraising campaign remember that there is an added value to a well developed FRD strategic plan and program. “Exploiting” this opportunity can only enhance your organization.
Stephen G. Donshik, D.S.W., is a lecturer at Hebrew University’s International Leadership and Philanthropy Program and has a consulting firm focused on strengthening non-profit organizations and their leadership for tomorrow. Stephen is a regular contributor to eJewish Philanthropy.