Nonprofit Executive Director and Fundraising Revisited

A few weeks back, I posted this question:

Q: As an E.D., what percentage of my time should be spent on fund raising? I am relatively new at this and want to balance my schedule.

My answer was something like, "100%."

And I got some comeuppance. Here are some of the comments:
Roger Carr responded:

I appreciate that you are a fundraiser, but I am concerned with the answer you gave (and with many of the answers I have been reading lately from other fundraising consultants)...Raising money is not the purpose and mission of most nonprofit organizations.It is one of the required tools to carry out the mission. If most or all of the ED’s time is spent fundraising, there is probably no reason for the organization to exist. A significant amount of time also needs to be spent in areas such as program development and advocacy in support of the cause...Fundraisers need to understand there is more to a nonprofit organization than fundraising (although I agree it is a critical part). Do you agree?

In a conversation, my friend Rob Hatch asked largely the same thing.

Then Mazarine Treyz said:

I agree with Roger and Marc, equally. We’ve got to fundraise AND oversee programs as executive directors. Depending on what stage of crisis the nonprofit is in, I would say, allocate more or less time to fundraising. At least 50% of the time is a good start anytime, and 100% of the time if the nonprofit is really in trouble.

And Katie from NE posted a comment that made my day:

Since I work in a nonprofit that exists to raise money for a hospital, I can easily agree with Marc, but yes, for most nonprofits there is programming and advocacy, too. I would mention that there is fundraising potential in programming and advocacy efforts that shouldn’t be overlooked, and just because you are “working on our outreach” that doesn’t mean that the outreach activity might not also present a fundraising opportunity. For instance, if you are lining up volunteers to read with recent immigrants, you might also look for ways to bring board members or supporters in for an open house or other event to both orient the volunteers and make them feel important and appreciated, and help dial in your potential major donors to the core mission. Fundraising can be a part of nearly everything you do.

"Fundraising can be a part of nearly everything you do."

I think Katie summed up what I'd meant to say.

But the conversation's just starting. What do you think? Is fundraising taking away from mission? Or is there a way that fundraising it be part of "nearly everything you do" in your nonprofit?

About Marc A. Pitman

Marc A. Pitman is the CEO of The Concord Leadership Group, the author of Ask Without Fear! and director of The Nonprofit Academy. A coach to leaders around the world, Marc's expertise and enthusiasm engages audiences and has caught the attention of media organizations as diverse as Al Jazeera and Fox News. Marc’s experience also includes pastoring a Vineyard church, managing a gubernatorial campaign, and teaching internet marketing and fundraising at colleges and universities. He is the husband to his best friend and the father of three amazing kids. And if you drive by him on the road, he’ll be singing 80’s tunes loud enough to embarrass his family! You can connect with him on Google+, on Twitter @marcapitman, and like "Ask Without Fear!" on Facebook.
To get his free ebook on 21 ways to get board members engaged with fundraising, go to


  1. ABF=Always Be Fundraising! The critical issue I see missing from the discussion thus far is the part the board should be playing in fundraising. It is the responsibility of a nonprofit board to "nurture" the nonprofit. Nurture means feed...feed means raise funding. Funding is the life blood of the nonprofit. A great program and deep passion for the cause are not enough. You need money. That being said, unfortunately the relationship between boards and EDs is usually dysfunctional due to lack of understanding of the roles of each. Boards are not held to the task of fundraising so it falls onto the shoulders of the ED. If you are an ED and find yourself in this situation you have two choices. 1) Work with your board chair to get the board doing what it should do...champion the fundraising efforts. 2) Do it yourself, in which case Marc is 100% need to be involved with fundraising 100% of the time.

  2. Dear Marc,

    Thank you for posting a response to my comment! I appreciate it!

    I think when we start to overcome the siloing and the rankism at various levels in our nonprofits, we can start to ask for more help, as fundraisers and help weave fundraising into everything.

    And you'll probably have more board support for this if you make each board member serve on the development committee before they can join the board.


    PS. Don't know what Rankism is? I have a presentation about it here:

  3. Ensuring adequate resources for an organization is certainly an essential responsibility of an ED, but the degree of involvement is going to depend on a number of variables, such as size of budget, depth of staffing (especially development staff), nature of programs, accountability standards, etc. Small not for profits with limited staff depend on ED?s who wear many different hats ranging from development to human resources to quality assurance to marketing, to advocacy?and on. The current economy is making matters even worse as organizations are forced to downsize staff.

    So, in essence, as with most things in life, there is no easy, pat answer to the question. It just depends. In today?s environment an ED must be significantly involved in raising the resources necessary to survive and thrive. And I certainly understand the concept that fundraising permeates almost everything we do. But it?s simplistic and counterproductive to suggest that it?s the totality of what an ED should do. An ED who spends 100% of his/her time fundraising is an overpaid Development Director. Money makes mission possible, but our mission is not money.

  4. Marc, this is a great question. When I meet with a new client or ED I explain that at LEAST 85% to 90% of their time needs to be dedicated to fundraising. Without the cash, there will not be any programs to manage or advocate for.

    Being an agency ED for 15 years, I know from experience that your larger donors, (who should make up 80% of you giving) don?t want to talk with a mid level person, they want to have the communication with the ED. It?s all about the relationships. The ED has to have the relationship with the large donors to sustain the organization for the long term. And that takes time. As we know it?s more than just meeting with them, it?s the ongoing communication keeping them engaged, so when you need to do an ?ask? they are already part of the solution.

    Added to that, depending on the size of the agency, no matter how large a development staff you have, the ED needs to ?own the development plan? with the lay leadership.


What would you add?