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Is fundraising at the core of your charity?

11 November 2021 at 8:08 am
Maggie Coggan
Just 15 per cent of charities have 100 per cent of their board members regularly donating to their organisation, new research finds  

Maggie Coggan | 11 November 2021 at 8:08 am


Is fundraising at the core of your charity?
11 November 2021 at 8:08 am

Just 15 per cent of charities have 100 per cent of their board members regularly donating to their organisation, new research finds  

Charity leaders must make a bigger effort to instill an internal culture of giving among senior staff members and board members if their organisations are to see fundraising success, experts say.

A new report from Noble Ambition is based on a July survey of 189 board chairs, directors and CEOs, designed to measure their knowledge of philanthropy and fundraising, their engagement in fundraising activities, whether their engagement impacted their organisation’s philanthropic outcomes, and their level of willingness to increase their engagement and or impact in the future.

Supported by the Fundraising Institute Australia (FIA), Perpetual, Creative Partnerships Australia and Equity Trustees, the report found that despite the potential to demonstrate fundraising leadership and inspire confidence among donors, a proportionately low number of charity board members and CEOs actually gave money to the organisation they worked for. 

This is despite previous academic research and market insights finding that boards and CEOs play a big part in fundraising outcomes, impact and acquisitions of major gifts. 

The report pointed to the success of the Art Gallery of NSW’s Sydney Modern $100M Campaign, the State Library of Victoria’s Vision 2020, and Sydney Theatre Company’s Wharf Revitalisation campaign, which were the result of effective advocacy or asks by CEOs or board members. 

The report found that 15 per cent of charities have 100 per cent of their board members regularly donating to their organisation and that senior leaders often demonstrated a lack of shared understanding within their organisation of what increased engagement or impact looks like.

Across all participants, the average percentage of board giving was 58 per cent, with the cultural sector having the highest levels of collective board giving per sector, at 62 per cent, while the social services sector was amongst the lowest at 41 per cent of board giving.

Board members need to put their money where their mouth is 

Melissa Smith, the CEO of Noble Ambition, said that the low participation rate was reflective of an ongoing discomfort in the charity sector of board giving. 

“It requires difficult conversations across power structures and hierarchies,” Smith said. 

Katherine Raskob, the CEO of the FIA, told Pro Bono News that one of the ways around this issue was by explicitly communicating these giving expectations to the board. 

“So obviously, we expect them to give up their time and their governance expertise to help us in terms of the oversight of the charity. But do we expect them to give?” she said.  

“And if that’s the case, that should be stated or clearly communicated to the board.” 

She said that one reason behind low giving rates was that many charity board positions were voluntary. 

“Potentially, board members think that once they volunteer their time, that’s all they need to do,” Raskob said.

But, she said that more needed to be done to inspire board members to donate more than just their time on the board. 

“Having board members donate money inspires confidence in donors, because they know that the charity is governed by a board who puts their money where their mouth is,” she said.  

CEOs must also play their part

On average, the data found that CEOs spend 30 per cent of their time on fundraising activity, regardless of sector or fundraising team size. They primarily engaged in advocating, thanking donors and fundraising management. 

But, if the CEO engaged in giving, fundraising, and actively encouraging a culture of philanthropy, there was a significant uplift in these same areas for boards. 

Raskob said that was why it was critical that a culture of philanthropy and raising money was instilled throughout the entire organisation, not just the fundraising team. 

“When an organisation believes that it’s everybody’s responsibility to engage with donors and supporters to tell the story of the charity and to believe that their role is in helping to raise funds, the organisation is more successful,” she said.  

Invest in the future 

The report also recommended that charities invest in training, peer mentoring and executive coaching to build collective performance and effective fundraising leadership teams, and encourage engagement in giving among staff, starting with board directors, executives and fundraisers. 

Raskob added that giving board members the right training opportunities was a big part of solving the problem.  

“A lot of people might think they know what a fundraiser is or what they do, but they may not realise that professional fundraisers have skills and qualifications that are really critical to advancing a fundraising function in a charity,” she said. 

“Board directors might not understand the fundraising function or have those skills.” 

See a full copy of the report here. 

Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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