Chapter Leadership Brief 9.12.19

By Gary Laermer, AFP-NYC Chapter President

Boards Say Staff, Staff Say Board……..

Much has been said and written about a recent Chronicle of Philanthropy survey that found that 51% of fundraisers plan to leave their jobs within the next two years, and 30% plan to leave the fundraising profession altogether.  An article in the last edition of Fundraising Matters’ Leadership Brief noted that the survey found that about 55% of fundraisers feel unappreciated. Why? Pay was certainly a factor, but it was also due to management and Boards not understanding the challenges of development work.

I thought I would comment on the finding that Boards do not understand fundraising challenges. I would offer that as fundraising becomes more sophisticated, requiring an understanding of compliance issues, use of in-depth research, communicating impact data, effective appeal and proposal writing, and how artificial intelligence is continuing to disrupt donor prospecting and campaigning, the role of Board members in fundraising will continue to change at a rapid pace.  While I am convinced that volunteer leadership remains critical for campaign success, I also believe the role volunteers play in a campaign will change.  I am confident that the need for highly competent, visionary, and resilient fundraising staff will only become greater in the coming years, along with the need to change the model of Board involvement in fundraising to better support each other and reduce both groups’ frustration.

Over decades of work in the field, I have found Boards are often frustrated with fundraisers when asked or expected to do things beyond their capacity, outside of their sphere of influence, and not in alignment with the reasons they joined the Board in the first place. 

It is vitally important that Boards and fundraising staff share a common understanding of each other’s role and capabilities.  If the Board and staff need additional resources to achieve fundraising success, they should look to other volunteers (non-board members) who bring certain assets that a campaign might need. These roles could include assisting with introductions, convening groups who might be moved by your case, helping to advocate throughout a community or on social media, and providing professional or legal advice. Fundraising success will only become more dependent on well trained development professionals.

That’s where our AFP Chapter comes in.  The Greater New York Chapter of AFP is fulfilling its greatest potential when we’re viewed as the training and learning partner for our great profession.  I hope you see the Chapter that way and take advantage of all of the great learning experiences offered.  Please be sure to check out the Events page for upcoming professional advancement programs.

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