Fundraising: Whose Responsibility Is It Anyway?

By Mark Gold, Director, and Dan Kirsch, Mentor, JCamp 180

What is the difference between an organization that has successfully implemented a culture of philanthropy and one that continually struggles to find fundraising success?

Two recent articles in eJewishPhilanthropy about the role of an organization's fundraising professional shed some light on the answer to that question.

The first article, Development Directors Must Manage Up by Nanette Fridman and Jennifer Weinstock, says that "no matter how many development professionals you have on your staff, the Executive Director is the lead fundraiser for the organization." This article reminds us that the success of an organization's fundraising cannot be pinned on one (development) person alone.  Fundraising is an organization-wide responsibility.  Yes, the development professional's efforts are a key driver of an organization's fundraising results.  But even an expert fundraiser can't ensure long-term success without 1) building strong relationships with key donors and prospects and 2) developing a culture of philanthropy throughout the organization, so that the Executive Director, Director, Board, and other staff all take on appropriate roles in the fundraising plan.

Making it Work

How can an organization make this work?  It takes effort and team-wide buy-in.  Our GIFT fundraiser's training program, led by mentor Laurie Herrick, incorporates activities that can lead to these desired results.  In GIFT, Laurie leads both new and experienced development leaders through the creation of a development plan.  These plans include the who, what, when, where and how of a camp's development program.  An effective plan recognizes that each member of the camp community influences the success of fundraising - from a counselor who interacts with parents and activity directors on visiting day, to the director, board members and board president who are the camp in the eyes of the broader community.

GIFT helps development professionals devise strategies to engage all staff and board members in the fundraising plan.  Laurie - and all of our JCamp 180 mentors - see the participation by a camp's Development Professional and Director (and/or Executive Director) in fundraising as necessary - but not sufficient -  for the fundraising program to be successful.

This brings us to the second article, Fundraisers on Commission: Get What You Pay For, by Gila Weinberg.  Weinberg highlights one of our fundamental tenets:  fundraising is about building relationships, not just about collecting money.  Because effective fundraising relies on building relationships, every employee and every lay leader can identify, create, and foster relationships with past, current and future donors.  The perception that the Executive Director is most effective in making one-on-one contacts with donors discounts the potential impact of the rest of the organization.  The executive's actions must encourage a commitment to philanthropy across the organization that multiplies the outreach and effectiveness of the development professional's work.

To truly be successful, a commitment to fundraising must be integral to advancing the organization's mission, a mission set by the board and infused throughout the organization by the Executive Director.   Successful fundraising also requires that the development staff be integrated into the fabric of the camp.  Keeping these individuals in silos, separate from other staff, board members, or camp activities impairs their ability to enroll other members of the camp team (employees and lay leaders) to be effective practitioners of donor engagement, solicitation and stewardship.

Now, take a look at your own camp.  Does your Executive Director/Camp Director understand their important role in fundraising?  Do all of your board members and other staff realize how important their relationships with key constituents are to overall fundraising success?  Are you creating a culture of philanthropy at your camp?

If the answer is no to any of these questions, reach out to your JCamp 180 mentor to help make a change at your camp that will result in more successful fundraising campaigns in the future.