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Leaders vital to fundraising boost

November 11th, 2021

Fundraising leadership has been identified as a priority for philanthropy in new findings that underline the important role boards and CEOs can play in growing giving, especially in a changing fundraising environment.

The National Benchmarking Report on Fundraising Leadership found widespread acceptance of the importance of CEOs and boards being engaged with fundraising: for boards, the primary reason was leading by example. For CEOs, the two main reasons for being engaged with fundraising were to build trust and credibility with donors, and that the CEO is the public face of the organisation.

The report found that only 15 per cent of boards had a 100 per cent participation in giving. And organisations that had explicit boards-giving expectations had a far higher percentage of board giving than organisations where there were no board giving discussions.

The report, from Noble Ambition in partnership with the Fundraising Institute of Australia, Perpetual, Creative Partnerships Australia, and Equity Trustees, drew on insights from an on-line survey of 189 senior leaders, in roles ranging from CEO to board chairs, board directors, to Head of Fundraising.

The report stated: “The philanthropy market is seeing a shift towards more structured giving and relationship-based fundraising such as major gifts and bequests. The success of these initiatives relies heavily on strategic support from Boards, CEOs, and Heads of Fundraising (HoF), who can significantly influence both philanthropists and organisational fundraising revenue.’’

Fundraising is vital to many organisations: a third of the survey respondents said that fundraising represented 50 per cent or more of their total revenue.

The findings reveal a difference between CEOs and boards on how much time each role spends on fundraising engagement – CEOs, regardless of their organisation, spend 30 per cent of their time on fundraising, primarily advocating, thanking donors, and fundraising management. Boards are primarily focussed on governance, followed by advocating on behalf of their organisation and then personal giving, and introductions. Understandably, the Head of Fundraising role engages in asking, strategy and thanking donors.

“Board members are more likely to have, or to be able to establish, the sort of peer relationships with philanthropists and high net worth individuals that can lead to major gifts,’’ the report stated. “Similarly, CEOs play a crucial role in articulating their organisation’s philanthropic vision and demonstrating to prospective donors that their organisation supports the project being funded at the very highest level.’’

The report comments that the data reflects how leaders are currently engaged and not how they should engage to achieve greater impact for their organisation.

“[T]he survey data shows that if the CEO engages in giving, getting and actively encouraging a culture of philanthropy, we see significant uplift in these same areas for Boards,’’ the report said.

But there are barriers CEOs have to overcome to increase their fundraising engagement, primarily a lack of time, a lack of staff resources to support the CEO, and competing demands on the CEO’s schedule.

The report includes five recommendations to “support excellence in fundraising leadership…’’. The final recommendation is to encourage engagement in giving among staff, starting with the board, executives, and fundraisers.

“The more people who engage with giving, the more normalised giving and fundraising becomes within your organisation,’’ the report said. “A culture of personal giving enables greater numbers of people to engage with the power of philanthropy, regardless of their financial circumstances.’’

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