A couple weeks ago, Richard sent me a note saying I had to see this post on LinkedIn and write about it. So I went to read the post, which shows two pie charts comparing what people think fundraisers do all day (100% fundraising), versus the reality of all the different tasks they manage outside of fundraising (internal meetings, internal emails, tracking down budget and impact data, et cetera). And every comment just kept adding more “reality” to this pie chart.

In addition to what’s in the graphic, other fundraisers commented to add things like events, event planning, quarterly meetings, monthly meetings, meetings to meet… the list went on.

Unfortunately, no one really had an answer on how to stop the madness.

And what’s sad is that it’s not just what “people” think fundraisers do all day; it’s that managers and non-profit leadership think this way too.

They have no idea all the insane tasks they are asking of their fundraisers that are taking them away from creating meaningful relationships with donors.

The overarching reason for why leaders and managers are doing this to fundraisers is that they don’t value investing enough into the fundraising program, so they put the burden on individual fundraisers to do all of the tasks that a good support team could handle for them.

What is the result? Less revenue! A lot less revenue.

Forgive me, but I’m going to use a professional tennis player analogy. Almost every professional tennis player has a coach. But those that are making over a million dollars a year in tournament winnings – they have a whole team of people who ensure that the player has everything they need to perform at their best.

For example: They not only have a coach who makes sure they are at practice every day, providing strategy and encouragement. They also have a nutritionist to make sure they are eating correctly; an athletic trainer to make sure they are getting the right exercise; a sports psychologist to make sure their head is in the game. There’s an administrative assistant who schedules tournaments and manages their daily calendar. They have a marketing team and a social media team, etc.

This team is all surrounding this one tennis player to ensure the tennis player is maximizing their revenue. That’s the bottom line. It makes total sense, right? I mean, could you imagine if the tennis player had to do their own social media, make all their meals, do their own social media, schedule their day, etc.? They would have no time for tennis.

How is this different than a frontline fundraiser?

Think about this. Your fundraiser has a portfolio of 150 donors and a value of $1.3MM. If you are a good manager and leader, you would like to see that grow over the next 3-5 years to $3.4MM. Right? How is that possible if you have your fundraiser doing all kinds of tasks not related to building relationships with donors?

It’s not going to happen.

At Veritus, before we even start working with a non-profit to help them build and grow their major gift program, we make it clear that if your fundraiser is going to be successful, you have to get them out of the busy work and make sure you have a support team around them to help them build relationships with donors.

That means this: they have access to an assistant for scheduling, setting up meetings with donors, filing expense reports, and arranging travel. This means there is someone on the team who is dedicated to reporting on impact and that program folks are willing to go on donor visits. It means Finance and Program have made it a priority to know exactly how many projects and programs the non-profit has and what the overall cost is for each of them. And that you have senior leadership and board members willing to ask donors for gifts. This means you have a good data team who can give the fundraiser solid information about a donor’s gifts and easily come up with good wealth information.

You see what I’m saying here, right? A successful major gift program requires a team of individuals that can support your major gift officer, so that the major gift officer can build relationships with donors and ultimately bring in more net revenue to the organization.

Now, why does the professional tennis world get it and the non-profit community doesn’t?

Because we are focused on cost containment, not revenue! We lose sight of the big picture and instead focus on our own navels, keeping costs low.

Stop messing with your fundraisers’ precious time by tasking them with everything but working with their donors.

And remember, investing properly in your people isn’t just about paying them well (although that is part of it). It’s about making sure they have a TEAM around them helping them be successful.