Is a change in leadership what we need?

This month’s blog post was prompted when I read an article about a recent report from fundraising think tank Rogare, part of Plymouth University’s Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy. The headline finding of the report was that fundraisers should be rewarded not for performance against short-term metrics such as income targets but longer term measures such as donor satisfaction. As the report’s authors put it:

“If you can focus on donor satisfaction, the money will surely follow.”

The Rogare report also found that the majority of the fundraisers surveyed have “problematic relationships with senior colleagues” which often manifested as “a short-term approach that demanded immediate returns on investment. They [fundraisers] don’t have the support, buy-in, or understanding of their colleagues and superiors: from trustees, chief executives and finance directors; and from the likes of communications staff and campaigners at a peer level” to be able to implement practical relationship fundraising.

This will sound very familiar to many leaders and managers of volunteers. Their performance is often measured against the wrong metrics like how many volunteers they have, how many they recruit and how many hours they give. They know that if you give volunteers a great experience (volunteer satisfaction) they will probably want to give more time, and maybe even money, in future. They certainly experience very little buy-in or understanding from colleagues and superiors, the very same people highlighted by Rogare in regard to fundraisers.

This similarity suggests to me that some of those who lead charities and some of those who perform key senior roles in those organisations don’t really understand the factors that make fundraising and people raising successful. Why else would fundraisers and volunteer managers have such similar experiences?

Of course this isn’t universally true of every charity CEO, finance director, trustee, communications manager etc.. There are many out there who ‘get it’. But there seems to be a significant number who don’t and I wonder what steps are being taken to rectify this? Volunteering is still undervalued and hidden in many organisations, and fundraising? Well just think back to last year and recent national news headlines for evidence that in some quarters all is not well.

A friend shared this quote with me recently which I think sums up part of the problem:

“Too much of the money available to address social needs is used to maintain the status quo, because it is given to organizations that are wedded to their current solutions, delivery models, and recipients.” – Professor Clayton Christensen. Harvard Business School

Maybe as well as new models of doing things we also need to look at new models of leadership in the sector, leadership that values people over cold hard cash. Leadership that will nurture and sustain relationships rather than finding ways to maximise the value of the next transaction with a person.

Until such leadership emerges in those places where it is currently absent I fear our sector will continue to take knocks and, more importantly, fail to live up to its potential to change our society for the better.

2 Responses to “Is a change in leadership what we need?”

  1. Stella Smith

    Great blog Rob! Definitely time we stepped out of the old worn ways of doing and measuring and into a new model of operating. But it does need new models of leadership, different ways of thinking and understanding our work shared by volunteers, staff, leaders, partners and funders.

  2. Missy Miller

    There’s no need to change leadership if there is an ability and willingness to learn, grow and change. The challenge is usually change is from the top down. It is usually impossible for vision-minded staff to re-direct the course of leadership, unless there is an atmosphere of open-mindedness.

    Fundraising is called “development” for a very good reason. Just like managing volunteers, trusting relationships must be developed over time for maximum benefit. It’s a proven fact that volunteers donate more financially than non-volunteer supporters, so naturally managing volunteers and fundraising go hand-in-hand on many levels.

    Another struggle is the clamor of funders for “outcomes”. I get the fact that they want to “see” results, but how do you quantify human capital? As in the increased level of self-confidence and self-worth, especially when it overflows into all facets of their lives. Volunteering changes lives – of those giving their time, those they serve and the staff who are blessed by their contributions. Many times, you cannot put a number or percentage on that. There is an intrinsic value of relationships that cannot be measured on any human level.

    It has also become clear to me that sometimes, agencies don’t want to change the way they “serve” the under-resourced population because the poor would then become independent and not need them any more. We tend to foster dependency instead of systemic, long-term, life giving change – from the CEO to the family on the street. Leadership AND staff buy-in, for implementing volunteers and developing donors is crucial.

    Resources for my perspective include “Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It)” by Robert D. Lupton”; “Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No, to Take Control” by Cloud & Townsend; and The Aha! Process, Bridges Out of Poverty and Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World connected with Dr. Ruby Payne’s work.


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