What’s the Role of the Fundraiser?

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Let me tell you a secret: I don’t care if the donor gives a gift to my organization or to another organization. It’s all philanthropy. And philanthropy is about the donor. Philanthropy is bigger than any single organization.

I believe “a rising tide raises all boats.” I believe that relationships are an end in and of themselves, not merely a strategy to secure gifts of time, advice and money. So here’s a wild suggestion. How about this threefold role for a fundraiser:

Role #1

First, nurture philanthropy as a community-building process, in John Gardner’s sense of place and mission; for a better understanding of what this entails, do read John Gardner’s wonderful monograph, “Building Community.” In this first role, I think the fundraiser’s job is to increase social capital and promote civic engagement, and also to build civil society and civic capacity.

Role #2

Second, nurture relationships to foster philanthropy and strengthen community. In this role, the fundraiser helps the community build partnerships. The fundraiser helps her own organization become relevant, strong, and donor-centered.

Role #3

And third, increase and diversify philanthropy for one’s employing organization. Here, the fundraiser turns his attention to his own organization. Specifically, the fundraiser acts as an organizational development specialist, assuring an effective organization. The fundraiser operates a donor-centered fund development program that nurtures relationships and effectively communicates. This is the way to build donor loyalty—and surely that is a (the?) principal role of the fundraiser.

As you might expect, I don’t think that the third role happens well without the first two. Furthermore, I think that excessive focus on the third role can harm the first two, which is a danger for all organizations and all communities.

Philanthropy and fund development are not about getting your organization’s fair share. Philanthropy and fund development are about finding those who might be interested and then nurturing relationships and loyalty. And not just for money!

  • Elaine Fogel – Totally Uncorked on Marketing

    Simone, I agree with you, but I don’t see this role strictly reserved for fundraisers. All nonprofit employees need to represent the brand in every action and behavior. Building and maintaining sound relationships with “customers” not only extends to donors, but also to staff, vendors, volunteers, etc.

  • Danielle Johnson Vermenton

    Great points! I really like #1, so many NPOs and their staff don’t see beyond their needs and their org’s mission to the bigger picture of philanthropy. It’s such a big reason why we as a community don’t come together more often to mentor, brainstorm and work together to not only be more effective as non-profits, but also to have a deeper impact.