Published 2:49 pm Monday, November 23, 2009
As the Nonprofit Leadership column continues with the series of the roles and responsibilities of the executive director, the sixth responsibility we approach is fundraising.
As we all know nonprofits rely heavily on charitable contributions from donors, grantees, companies and other private sources. This responsibility is the cause of many sleepless nights and a lot of anxiety for most Executive Directors (EDs). All EDs wish for more involvement in fundraising from their board, a large development staff and long for an income-producing endowment that would cover operational costs to relieve their ongoing worrying about fundraising. However we all live in the real world.
The division of responsibilities around fundraising varies between different organizations based on their size. One thing rings true regardless of the size of the organization, that the ED is the most important person involved in fundraising. This includes building relationships with key individuals, donors and ensuring the board is actively involved infundraising.
The ED involvement in fundraising is usually an obvious part of their job description. There are several reasons for this;
Foundations and corporations usually make their giving decisions based on their trust in the EDs leadership within the nonprofit organization.
Potential donors view the most effective solicitor as a peer. This can be either the ED or a board member. Potential donors view the ED as the one in charge and having the opportunity to sit down with him/her to hear about the organizations challenges and programs helps donors feel that their support is very important.
With out the EDs involvement in fundraising the most seasoned development staff person would find it hard to encourage or engage the board in fundraising with out the full support and active participation for the ED.
As the organizations leader the ED is the person who has the broadest perspective on the organization and all its programs and services. The ED should be able to speak effectively and passionately about the organization and why it deserves support. As an unwritten rule, the ED should always base his/her case for support on the needs of the community it serves not the needs of the organization.
The ED is also responsible for focusing the boards attention on fundraising activities and policies. In small organizations the EDs are also responsible for ensuring every board member has made an annual contribution.
Even though the EDs role in fundraising is broad and varies from organization to organization the ED must lead the board and staff in identifying the correct strategies to fit its organizational mission and stage of development. As the staff leader the ED must ensure there is enough staff and other resources to get the job done. While staff and the board play an important role in supporting the ED in fundraising the ED is the key player.
In the next article, we will discuss steps in order to hire an Executive Director.