It’s easy to name a few challenges and threats to fundraising in New Zealand, but more difficult to provide answers and solutions; and I expect someone will come out with guns blazing in support of the exceptions. Here are some challenges I see. I’d be interested in your perspective.
1. The disconnect between expectation and performance
Most Boards and CEOs have high expectations, but do they make an effective investment in time, resources, and staff to enable a reasonable return? Here’s a challenge: are Boards and CEOs willing to increase their own knowledge of and commitment to fundraising to get a better return? There’s also room for Fundraisers to improve their knowledge and performance: to value research rather than anecdotal evidence, to build on the basics rather than hope in the latest fad.
2. We are not “professional” enough
This isn’t just about good behaviour, rather being competent, expert in our skills, keeping up to date and sharing our knowledge with others. A profession is defined as “one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification”. The Fundraising industry still has a way to go. We have a certificate (CIF) and a certification (CFRE), which are steps along the way, but no ‘recognised’ qualifications. This is not for want of trying, but the size of the market makes it difficult economically. In the meantime, how many fundraising books have you read?
3. Poor vision
I wonder if we fundraisers need a check up ourselves. As “professionals” are we growing in our knowledge and taking advantage of opportunities? How many of us are stuck in one kind of role, not wanting to move out of our comfort zone? It may be easier to stay in an office bound role doing grant applications or direct mail, but it is more exciting and more rewarding to meet prospective donors face to face in their homes and offices. Major Gifts fundraising has one of the highest ROI, and anecdotal evidence shows it also pays better than most other roles. Yet there is a constant shortage of them. So, is the threat that we are short-sighted or have blinkers on, and do we need to adjust our vision?
4. Too many takers – not enough givers
This seems incongruous among fundraisers, but consider for a moment. What do you give back to your profession? Everything I learned about fundraising at the beginning was because other fundraisers shared their knowledge generously. The culture today is to ask “What’s in it for me?” Records shows that over half of FINZ Northern membership do not contribute or attend an event in a given year. I assume they join to have the “benefits” of membership and take what suits, but don’t contribute to the ‘fellowship’, networking, building the knowledge, sharing their experiences, or mentoring others.
5. High rate of churn
Statistics show that in each survey over the last eight years, on average 26% of fundraisers had been in their current role for less than one year, and only 28% more than 4 years. The high turnover of staff is not conducive to building ones own experience or a strong fundraising program. In 2008, 55% (of survey participants) had been in fundraising for more than 5 years. By 2014 this had dropped to 48%. Where is that trend going?
That might seem quite negative, but the topic today was to write on threats and challenges. Those are a few I thought about today. Yesterday there were others, tomorrow there will be more, such as a lack of research in the industry. They highlight for me the need for us to take professionalism seriously, to continue pursuing and advancing professional development opportunities, to give more back to the profession, to raise CEO/Board levels of knowledge and investment to match expectation, and also not to be spooked by external events.
Another time, it can be balanced against the positive advances being made.
Originally published in “Fundraising NZ” magazine. Used with permission.
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