This article is from the Nonprofit Quarterly’s fall 2016 edition, “The Nonprofit Workforce: Overcoming Obstacles.”
Over the past few years, nonprofits have been creeping up toward new ways of sharing core tasks of their organizations with their staffs. An example of this are the practice models associated with creating a culture of philanthropy. The recent “Bright Spots” study by Jeanne Bell and Kim Klein describes how a number of nonprofits have employed these models.1
Many of the groups talked about sharing fundraising responsibilities with staff as part of a larger, overall organizing strategy, and one of the more interesting cases the study cites concerns a group called Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). At JVP the staff, on top of their other roles, share responsibility for maintaining relationships with six hundred major donors; each staff person has his or her share as a portfolio. The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) does something similar, raising $2 million a year from major donors, 30 percent of which is managed through portfolios held by the group’s staff, board, and volunteers.
This sharing of fundraising responsibilities has to be supported by rigorous systems and good research, of course. For example, a donor survey by NCLR revealed that donor interests in the organization were much broader than marriage equality, which they had assumed was their draw. The ability to uncover and share such information quickly makes each fundraiser and the group as a whole more effective.2
The following description exemplifies a new model of staff deployment that embodies some powerful assumptions:
- Each staff person can be trusted to represent the organization to important partners.
- Important tasks that require skill and knowledge do not need to be marginalized to one or two staff members.<