There are fundraisers and organizational development specialists—the latter classified as change agents serving the entire organization and looking beyond the immediate need for funds.
Guaranteed: every organization needs its own in-house organizational development specialists to survive and flourish. And the development officer should be one of these specialists.
Why does organizational development matter—even more than fundraising techniques? Because fund development is about much more than asking for money.
Sure, fund development includes solicitation strategies, response rates, case statements, and volunteer management. But fund development is about everything else in your organization first. And it’s the “everything else” that’s so challenging and often messy. It’s the “everything else” that reaches out and affects every area of performance.
What’s the “everything else”? Consider these issues—all of which affect fund development—but none of which stem from fundraising.
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- Is your organization sufficiently relevant to the community to secure sufficient support—e.g., respect, clients, board members, volunteers, good will, and also donors and gifts?
- Does your organization effectively foster relationships with diverse constituents including clients, community decision-makers, media, regulators, and so forth?
- Are your staff effective enablers, empowering volunteers to do the best they can—volunteers of all kinds including direct service, fundraising, board members, and so forth?
- How effective is your organization at planning and decision-making, and securing quality information to plan and make quality decisions?
- Does your organization regularly examine itself and the external environment, discussing the findings and learning and changing when necessary?
- And there are so many more issues!
These are all organizational development issues. Each of these—and more—affect your ability to raise charitable contributions.
Think about the fundraising challenges facing you daily. Probably more than 75 percent of these issues are not fundraising problems at all. These are organizational development issues that affect fundraising. So just being a good (or great fundraising technician) cannot solve these other issues.
Your organization is one system, made up of interconnected and interrelated parts. The best fundraisers know this. That’s why I call them organizational development specialists. They embrace systems thinking, a critical business theory that is the cornerstone of organizational development. These fundraisers see interrelationships rather than linear chains. These fundraisers acknowledge the whole whose parts relate and operate for a common purpose.
I only wish there were more organizational development specialists. But sadly, technical fundraisers are more abundant.
These technicians focus almost exclusively on fundraising strategies and tactics to meet their organization’s financial need. The best technicians believe deeply in their causes, understand philanthropy, know how to create infrastructure, document activities, and delineate roles. These excellent technicians use sophisticated solicitation strategies, negotiate major gifts, engage donors, and provide competent support to volunteers.
But being a technician is not enough. It never has been—even though the fundraising profession seems to have pretended so for decades. Read more in my next column.