I saw an article today addressing the issue of how a large percentage of professional fundraisers would like to take on leadership roles in the non-profit sector but that few executive positions are filled by people with that background. 

Here is the link to an interview with two fundraisers who were successful in making the upward transition:
Civil Society - Voices from the Other Side, Fundraisers who become Chief Executives

The argument that the two interviewees make centers around the broad range of high-level business, relational, and communication skills that are required of successful fundraisers and how well they translate into leadership roles. I agree that some of the most dynamic individuals I've met have been in the fundraising industry and that there is an ability among many of my colleagues to create and communicate a vision for the future with clarity and passion. In other words, there are excellent leaders hidden in the ranks!

From my perspective, there are two things that might help:

1. As a community, fundraisers need to articulate better for themselves and their peers what it is exactly that they do. What is required of them daily for success and what special talents do they bring to the table? I always think that the CMA does a great job of doing this in their television and print ads for their own constituency.


2. Fundraisers also need to develop personally as great leaders. They need to look for opportunities to learn from the best of the best and to understand what leadership means. Some of my colleagues have taken the step of enrolling in Leadership MBA programs. Others have looked to expanding their reading lists, networking with leaders and seeking out mentors both on and offline. 

One of my current favorite sources for information is Alan Kay who offers coaching in the Solutions Focus change model. In one respect, leading is about knowing how and when to create and facilitate change. I learn a lot from simply following his free webinars and blog posts. 

What else do you think we could be doing? If your aspirations include leadership, how are you moving in that direction?

Update: Excellent article on Fundraising and Leadership appeared via the AFP Resource centre. Here's the link: Association of Fundraising Professionals
Last night, I was happily catching up on my favorite TV show via the internet and the phone rang. 

The call caught me by surprise. 

It turned out to be a live "virtual town hall" hosted by one of the local candidates and callers were invited to "press 3" to ask a question.

Maybe this is a technique that others are more familiar with, but it was new to me and it was engaging enough to win airtime for a candidate I wasn't planning on voting for.

The call pool managed to get 6,100 participants on the line all at once and keep their attention for nearly an hour (during prime time). In Kingston, that's a big number!

This experience got me thinking...

I came across this blog post today from GoodWorksCo. on what fundraisers can learn from election campaigns. 

I wonder, what could fundraisers learn from the virtual town hall approach? 

What if the Director of your international aid non-profit set up something similar to talk to supporters and community members about a natural disaster - think Japan? 

What if the President of your hospital or university could answer questions about the upcoming capital campaign or the desperate funding needs of the institution?

How about when things go wrong at your organization? Would there be more public forgiveness in bringing the leader out from behind the press releases and into a conversation with concerned supporters?

There is no script here, there are sticky questions, it's not easy to be on the line, but the human connection here can be incredible. It created the feeling that my opinion and vote both matter in this election and to this candidate. It brought the party platform onto my phone line; into an intimate space in my home.

What I would have done differently? 

No surprises. I would have loved to know the call was coming and to be somewhat prepared with a good question. 

Controlling the medium means you get a say in controlling the messages. Harness the power of social media. Send out a hashtag and post live tweets from the speaker's account. This didn't happen and people were online looking for that conversation.

I created my own hashtag and sent out live tweets on request for those who didn't pick up the phone on time - that means I got to filter the information. 

Do you think we can use this in fundraising / have you ever given it a try or does it only apply to an election scenario?


Personally, I have been very lucky to spend a number of years in development programs that were able to support several full-time gift planning professionals and where I could focus my energy exclusively on building a legacy gift program.

However, industry surveys show that it is only a small percentage of fundraisers that are in this type of position. More commonly, gift planning is only part of one's responsibilities or not included at all. 

With limited time and resources, how can fundraising and financial planning professionals still build enabling legacy gifts into their work?

Tony Martignetti has posted an article about the 5 Ways to be a Planned Giving Evangelist. The good news is that his tips are all about attitude. If you can become an enthusiastic believer yourself, you will begin to see opportunities to share your own passion and inspire others. 

The truth is that marketing campaigns and advanced technical knowledge are must-haves for large programs, but for most people, all you need is to be able to introduce the topic and be ready to provide some very basic information to the donor's estate professional. 

Your own enthusiasm is the most powerful marketing tool in your arsenal and luckily, it won't be a line-item on your operating budget!

© 2011-2012 Christina Attard. All Rights Reserved