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Fundraising Professionals on NFP Boards?


Tuesday, 8th September 2015 at 11:35 am
Ellie Cooper, Journalist
Why aren't more leading fundraising professionals on Not for Profit Boards asks fundraising expert Peter Dalton.

Tuesday, 8th September 2015
at 11:35 am
Ellie Cooper, Journalist


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Fundraising Professionals on NFP Boards?
Tuesday, 8th September 2015 at 11:35 am

Why aren't more leading fundraising professionals on Not for Profit Boards asks fundraising expert Peter Dalton.

Why indeed aren't more leading fundraising professionals on Not for Profit Boards when for many Australian NFP's fundraised income is their largest source of income or provides the difference dollars delivering novel, transformative programs and services.

Why indeed "when the most significant benefit of having fundraising expertise at CEO and board levels is strategic direction/oversight (as opposed to additional people ‘asking’ for support)” (1)

The Australian Institute of Company Directors Good Guidance for NFP Organisations lists as a good mix for membership of NFP Boards – Strategic expertise, Accounting and finance, Legal, Managing people and achieving change, Specific NFP/industry knowledge and, finally, Experience with dynamics of fundraising.

How beautifully expressed, experience with dynamics in fundraising; sounds like you need a fundraising professional on your board, right? A ‘qualified’ fundraising professional, a Member of Fundraising Institute Australia and preferably a Certified Fund-Raising Executive (CFRE).

In my experience board level fundraising expertise is most typically volunteer ‘expertise’; for example, experience in serving on a volunteer fundraising campaign or event committee. Whether you’re a legal, finance, marketing, PR or fundraising professional serving on a NFP Board, you understand the terrifying truth behind Alexander Pope’s … A little learning is a dangerous thing.

So what’s at stake here, what’s the cost benefit of having a qualified fundraising professional on your NFP board … when the most significant benefit of having fundraising expertise at CEO and board levels is strategic direction/oversight? The ACPNS study(1) found that when setting fundraising targets (not to be confused with setting fundraising budgets) approximately half of targets were set by the NFP CEO, a quarter were set by the Board and just a quarter by the fundraising professional. What’s that all about!

The targets referred to here are typically annual targets. The fundraising expertise NFP Boards desperately need are fundraising professionals with experience in developing 3 to 5 year fundraising business plans, aligned to the organisations strategic plan. They need to be part of the board’s comprehensive institutional strategic planning process … because for many Australian NFP's fundraised income is their largest source of income or provides the difference dollars delivering novel, transformative programs and services

When revisiting the aptly titled ACPNS study ‘Who’s asking for what? Fundraising Leadership in Australian Nonprofits’ I was stuck by this …

Fundraisers are reflecting that more insights to this area on the board may boost success and organisational leaders are indicating that these skills are covered by their existing governance approaches.

It would be possible, indeed probably desirable to include fundraising as a topic in the range of board training courses on the market. The more critical issue is for an organisation to determine whether these skills are indeed part of a well-rounded governance makeup for their organisation.

(1) Scaife, Wendy A., Williamson, Alexandra, & McDonald, Katie (2013) Who’s asking for what? Fundraising and leadership in Australian nonprofits. Australian Centre of Philanthropy and NonProfit Studies, QUT Brisbane

About the author: Peter Dalton CFRE FFIA is the Director of FUNDRAISINGFUTURES Pty Ltd and Chairman, Outback Spirit Foundation. He is currently a Presenter, of the FIA’s Fundraising Change Leadership course.


Ellie Cooper  |  Journalist |  @ProBonoNews

Ellie Cooper is a journalist covering the social sector.

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