May 22, 2013

Development is a Changing Field

By: Lisa Hazlett

America’s charitable community plays an indispensable role in improving communities across the country. Whether caring for victims of natural disasters, stimulating creativity in the arts and sciences, protecting free speech, or supporting the vulnerable and needy, nonprofit organizations are critically important to our nation’s well being. And regardless of their mission, fundraising is their lifeblood.

The process of fundraising used to be fairly simple. A person with a cause asked a person of concern to share in responding to a human or social need. There were no formal procedures or guidelines, nor were there any controls or regulations. Today, the plaintive cry of harassed nonprofit executives straining t o match inadequate income to expanding budget requirements is a frequent encounter of boards of directors, donors, and staff. Philanthropic fundraising has become a sophisticated profession, and the need for fundraisers has increased considerably. The liberty movement is no exception to that, as there are typically more job vacancies than qualified and experienced people to fill them.

While a policy expert typically focuses on just a few issues, fundraisers for policy groups have a responsibility to be informed and think critically about a variety of issues. In addition to being an advocate for their organization, they are the bridge that connects the resources and turns thinking into action. While it is not the primary focus of their responsibility, many fundraisers participate in policy debates and teach colleagues and donors about the issues.

In recent years, donors have increased their expectation from reading a copy of the publication they supported to receiving a report of its impact. This can be tough because it is very difficult, and sometimes impossible, to measure success in a universe of ideas.

Ironically, the most measurable success of an idea-focused organization is its ability to meet revenue goals. This success, of course, is dependent upon a successful fundraiser. So how does one raise money without commitments to significant tangible and measurable results?

There is a discipline to fundraising that progresses in logical order from preparation to planning to execution to control. This sequence is about as close to a science as one can get and can serve as an effective road map for fundraising. But even with perfect processes and controls, the bottom line is that the most critical component of the fundraising process is building relationships.

This is what makes fundraising so unique.

Next time, we’ll discuss the characteristics of successful nonprofit fundraisers.

Lisa Hazlett is executive director at Friends of UFM, Inc., a not-for-profit foundation based in the United States that raises awareness and funds for the students, programs, instruction, and facilities of Universidad Francisco Marroquín. This post is part of the Institute for Humane Studies Guide to Public Policy Careers.