What does a front-line fundraiser need to be successful, besides qualified donors and something to present to donors that matches their passions and interests?

That’s a question I have posed to many managers and leaders over the last few years. And I’ve heard responses like:

  • “Nothing. That’s all they need. Why would they need anything else?” 
  • “They need more information on best practices in their area, including strategy input, so they can be more effective.” 
  • “They need better analysis to know that their caseload has the right donors on it.” 
  • “They need a partner to walk with them, on a frequent basis, and make sure the priorities are right, that the planned tasks are getting done, that donors are being contacted on a timely basis, that caseloads are refreshed, etc… – but this is very labor-intensive. I just don’t have the time to provide this level of management.” 
  • “They need a fair evaluation of their performance, but since I have other things to do, I don’t know the details of their performance, except for the amount raised, so I can’t really do the evaluation justice.” 
  • “They need to have a true and mutual partnership with finance and program so that solid donor offers are created, and so that effective reporting back on how the donor’s gift made an impact actually happens on a timely basis.” 
  • “They need more admin support so that they can have more time for donor interface.”
Think about this. Everything stated above (except for the “nothing” claim in point #1), is a clear statement on WHAT the front-line fundraiser needs to be effective, falling into categories like:
  • Best practice and strategy input
  • The latest analysis techniques and approaches
  • Accountability, prioritization, and help in getting stuff done
  • Performance evaluation and job guidance
  • Mutuality and partnership with finance and program
  • Admin support
And yes, this is absolutely what the front-line fundraiser needs. But there are internal blocks to providing this kind of support – blocks which can be summed up in two points:
  1. Very few managers and leaders in the non-profit world, including those in other countries and cultures, understand this need and how labor-intensive it is. 
  2. Very few leaders will allocate the budget to fund this kind of help.

So, the result is that many front-line fundraisers are underperforming because they simply don’t have the support they need.

This is why I started Veritus Group, and why Jeff joined me – to provide solid input and support for front-line fundraisers in the mid, major, and planned gift space. We have experienced a lot of success in providing co-management services for front-line fundraisers with non-profits, large and small, in the United States, Canada, and Europe. And our training is now enthusiastically consumed by thousands of front-line fundraisers, leaders, and managers around the world.

Still, some managers and leaders don’t understand the purpose of co-management. Maybe they believe that co-management of front-line fundraisers is not a needed function. Or maybe they think that management of front-line fundraisers should be solely an internal function – that to outsource it would violate some management principle.

This is interesting to us at Veritus, in that sales management has always been a key management position in the for-profit sector. So, we know it is a needed function. The non-profit sector has not caught up to this idea.

Secondly, for decades, non-profits have been outsourcing all types of work: direct-marketing, creative, social media, analysis – and the list goes on and on. And the thing is that outsiders have been very much a part of helping determine what some of the internal folks do. And millions and millions of dollars are spent on that kind of consulting work. So, this is not a new concept.

The fact is that management of front-line fundraisers IS a needed role. And the person doing it should not be tasked with also managing a portfolio of donors, because they won’t have enough time to do both.

It’s also a fact that the co-management concept does not violate management best practices. In our approach – and we have co-managed thousands of front-line fundraisers in mid-level, major gifts, and planned giving programs – all the HR functions stay internal. As external consultants, we have no authority, and should not have any, to determine a front-line fundraiser’s career path or to recommend disciplinary actions for a performance problem. That’s not our role.

But input on strategy and best practices, drawn from hundreds of other client situations, the analysis and weekly touches on caseload management and prioritization, the development of mutual relationships with finance and program (together with the internal management folks), the prioritization of tasks, and creative approaches to donors – all of this is part of what we do to help make the front-line fundraiser successful.

This is why we call this approach co-management. When we partner with you, your internal management team works with us here at Veritus to co-manage the front-line fundraising program. It’s a win-win all the way around, and it’s far more flexible and less costly than an internal solution.

So, why am I bringing up this topic on the blog? Because Jeff and I, and our team, keep seeing more and more front-line fundraisers who are poorly managed and poorly treated – we see so many that are leaving their jobs and leaving philanthropy altogether. And that motivates us to provide a solution.

All of us here at Veritus are enthusiastic supporters of philanthropy – of doing good on the planet. And we want to do our part to make the working environment for front-line fundraisers a happy and fulfilling place while they are helping to fulfill your organizational mission.

We can help you improve the quality of management of your front-line fundraisers – let us know if you’d like to explore this together.

Richard