In Are You an ATM or a Fundraiser? I raised the issue of how ‘disrespect’ — for the profession, for each other, and for the donor — is contributing to a bleak future for our sector.

Claire Axelrad was among Agitator readers who added to the ‘what’s wrong’ list.

The lack of a philanthropy culture stems directly from the TOP. From leaders who view money as ‘filthy lucre’ and fundraisers as ‘money grubbers.’ As long as the CEO and/or Board view fundraising in this distasteful, almost taboo manner, there’s little the fundraiser can do to turn the tide.

“Which brings us to lack of professionalism. It’s not just fundraisers who aren’t sufficiently professionalized. It’s also CEOs and boards. Anybody and their dog can found a nonprofit. Many do.

“Then they ask friends to join the board — folks who know next-to-nothing about the roles and responsibilities of board members. Then they hire someone to do fundraising, and put them in a corner with the admonition to “go raise money.”

“It starts at the top before it seeps down.”

Indeed, study after study, survey after survey confirms Claire’s point. [See Underdeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising and Agitator’s Before You Quit, Rate Your CEO.]

Four years ago, The Agitator surveyed our readers on this very subject. (See Fundraisers Rate Their CEOs)

Most of the respondents were seasoned fundraisers — almost half (47%) had been in the trade more than 10 years; 71% over 5 years. More than half worked in good sized organizations.

Although we included some cheeky questions, the respondents seemed to focus seriously on the question of leadership effectiveness.

According to our Agitator survey, only 22% of respondents would “nominate your CEO for The Agitator’s BEST CEO Award” (50% said No, and 29% ticked “are you guys nuts”).

More seriously we asked: “Rate your CEO’s understanding of and commitment to effective fundraising. He or she is …”

  • A superstar — 16%
  • Gets the basics, but not a leader in this area — 38%
  • Pretty hands-off — 23%
  • More of a hindrance than a help — 23%
  • Almost half (49%) would replace their CEO if they had the chance!

Asked which statement best described fundraising planning ‘at the top’ in their organizations, fundraisers said …

  • Program goals are discussed with fundraising an integral part of the discussion — 26%
  • “Tell us how much you can raise” — 17%
  • “Here’s what we need … go raise it” — 58%

Asked about support from the top, 37% said fundraising support from their CEO and Board was “lacking” … 20% said “they’re clueless”.

And what about appreciation from the top? 40% said their CEO treats them “like an occasional visiting relative” … 24% “like the gardener”.


Sadly, I suspect we haven’t made much progress in the four years since that survey was taken.


P.S. There’s no question that, when it comes to fundraising, most organizations are their own worst enemies. Later this week we’ll report on a major new study by Alia McKee and Mark Rovner at Sea Change Strategies enumerating the wide range of structural and attitudinal barriers to fundraising. Stay tuned.





This article was posted in: Board Meeting Swipe File, Breaking Out of the Status Quo, Fundraising philosophy/profession, Nonprofit management, Research.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.