Where does the buck begin or stop?

We are in the middle of annual fundraising season. Everyone associated with nonprofits is working to identify potential supporters and encourage their giving. For many this is both the time to focus on raising money and preparing for next year. You are looking at what is working now, recording your missteps, and taking note of opportunities you hadn’t anticipated. At the end of it all will be an accounting and reckoning – everyone will want to know: did you make your goal? And they will want to know “who is responsible?” They will want to congratulate someone, or maybe they will seek to make someone a scapegoat. In all cases the question boils down to this: where does the buck start and where does it stop?

Let’s begin with the question, “Where do you start?” Do you need to have a person dedicated to fundraising? Will that put you on the road to fundraising success? Will that person “solve all your problems” so the board and executive director can focus on the important work of the organization? Or does the answer lie with the executive director? Is it their responsibility to define the fundraising priorities and financial goals, tying these to your strategic plan? Will this make the money come in? Or is it the board who starts off your fundraising? Are you looking to them to give to your nonprofit, to demonstrate their commitment and to ask others to do the same? Will that make a difference? Or should the board focus on oversight, policy, and governance and ask for reports with projections and actuals every week? 

Maybe you believe you need volunteer leadership before you can fundraise. Other organizations have a visible spokesperson, so you need one too. If you had a highly visible person out there in front of people, then others would give, and hopefully give big. Or you might be focusing on bringing together a team of volunteers who will work their networks on behalf of your nonprofit. If you are a college or a regional/national nonprofit, maybe you will activate alumni through regional leadership groups who each have fundraising goals.

All these individuals and groups have an important role to play in fundraising. The question is this: who should take the lead? Here are our recommendations, the executive director should set the vision, mission, and fundraising priorities. These should be approved (or modified and then approved) by the board. The board should give and raise 20% of your fundraising goal, with everyone participating as a donor. Your fundraising staff should develop a plan for ensuring the goal is met – a plan that asks everyone to take on a role. Finally, your volunteer leaders should provide visibility for your fundraising and raise a mutually agreed upon amount of money from specific people or sources.

Consider how these roles fit with your nonprofit, and then work together in a way that is true to your culture and the knowledge and abilities that reside across the organization. 


Copyright 2021 – Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. Let us help you plan for 2021 Video and phone conferencing services are always available. Call us at (901) 522-8727. www.saadandshaw.com.

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