The Ideal Fundraising Organization

If you want to have a ton of fun, get a few non-profit organizational charts, set them down on your desk in front of you, set a timer for 60 minutes, and then try to figure out how they work before the timer runs out.  Bet you won’t be able to do it.

I’m looking at one right now.  It has more squiggles than a Petri dish.  And with layer after layer of levels, you would think it’s a schematic for a 26 story parking garage.

Add to all of that nonsense the fact that you need a lexicon to interpret all the titles and descriptions of work.  If that organizational chart was one of those hedge mazes it would be your worst nightmare.  Believe me, you would never get out of there, much less make sense of it.

The fact is that most organizational charts have evolved over time and are decades old, reflecting the values and process beliefs of a host of managers and leaders who left long ago and have forgotten how strongly they felt about something so ineffective.

And no one has stopped to ask if they work anymore, which is why they don’t.

An organizational chart should reflect the most natural, effective and efficient division of labor supported by the most logical and effective process to get the work done.

This is why when we talk about the Development Department, which is the fundraising function of the organization, the division of labor needs to have something to do with donors – getting them, nurturing them, retaining them and upgrading them.

For a development department, I believe there are three things to pay attention to when you begin to make organizational decisions.

First, there needs to be an organizing philosophy.  The graphic below represents what I think it should be.  In a nutshell, all the fundraising activities have the sole purpose of gathering resources in the marketplace so that holistic or integrated service to humankind can happen.

If you are the person in charge of your development function or some portion of it, I think you should be making sure everyone on your team understands this important principle.  Stated simply:  “We are here to gather resources to serve humankind.”  Period.  Don’t make it more complicated than that.

Secondly, at the macro level, the tasks should be divided into work primarily directed to Individuals, Institutions and “Other” as shown in the chart below:

Obviously you will use online in institutional work, but the point I am trying to make in this division of work is that the strategies and approaches to individuals are different from those strategies directed to institutions.

Plus, there are “other” activities that are not essentially for fundraising.  Now, you might argue that events are primarily fundraising, but I would have to disagree.  Most events (though not all) are, in my opinion, mostly time suckers that gobble up a lot of labor.

But don’t get hung up on that.  Stay with the bigger idea of dividing things between individuals and institutions.

Lastly, sub-divide all the fundraising related to individuals into two major categories:  (1) The 1:many category (also called direct marketing or mass marketing), and (2) The 1:1 category.

This division of work is important because the one to one strategies are so much different from the one to many strategies.

There is one other sub-point here and it is the work overlay of donor acquisition and cultivation.

It sounds complicated, but in an ideal setting there is a donor acquisition function under the individual work category AND the institutional work category.  And there is a cultivation function under both of them as well. So, I would have someone responsible for each of the four functions:  individual donor acquisition, individual donor cultivation, institutional acquisition and institutional cultivation.

When organizing a development department, if we kept things about this basic, I think the entire function would work better since everyone would understand where they fit on the donor continuum:

If you want to have another interesting exercise, take those organizational charts we talked about at the beginning and label every box on the chart with one of these three functions:  get donors, retain donors, upgrade donors.  Then put the similar ones together, ask yourself where that function should report,  and if it makes sense.

Most likely it doesn’t, which is why things are not working well.

There is an easy fix, so I hope they will listen to you.  Any if they do, more money will be raised at a lower cost and the donors will be happier.  And everyone knows that happy donors want to stay in relationship, which is good for them and good for the organization.



About Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry

Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry have over 55 years of experience fundraising for non-profits. Richard Perry was co-owner of Domain Group until 2005. Jeff Schreifels was a Senior Strategist for Domain Group for 12 years. They came together a few years ago to start Veritus Group, a full-service major gift fundraising agency. Veritus Group has a unique, data-driven approach unlike any agency focused on major gifts. Jeff and Richard are passionate about their work, passionate about life and hopes this blog will provide you with insights and tangible benefits for you and your work. Thank you for reading!
This entry was posted in Development Directors, Donor-Centered, Major Gift Officers, Major Gifts, Mission and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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