Not long ago, I received this great 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.
A: Interesting question. I’m tempted to say 100%.
But there are so many variables:
- If fundraising is your only income stream – you must be constantly fundraising
- If you’re a small nonprofit – you must be constantly fundraising
- If you have a staff to fundraise – you must trust them to do their job, and be constantly fundraising in sync with them yourself
I really know of no hard and fast percentage. But you can see my bias. 🙂
(Although shorter than most answers, the ED found this very helpful. Perhaps its brevity helped make it helpful?)
[Do you have a question about nonprofits or fundraising that you’d like considered for Question Marc? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
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). The person asking the question said nothing about the financial state of the organization or what other responsibilities the organization needed to fulfil. 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. I recently read the blog post “Fundraisers and Program Professionals: Can?t Everyone Just Get Along?” at http://www.pamelasgrantwritingblog.com/706/fundraisers-and-program-professionals-cant-everyone-just-get-along/. I think there needs to be a balanced look at the organization before they will get along. Fundraisers need to understand there is more to a nonprofit organization than fundraising (although I agree it is a critical part). Do you agree?
Darn, I posted a long reply to this!
Did it get lost?
In a nutshell, 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.
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.
I invest time with anyone and everyone I meet. Without them knowing it, I try to see how I can be a resource to them. Quite often, I discover they have a capacity to give and my ministry is an opportunity for them to express themselves with a charitable contribution.
This takes time…and often I find myself planting a seed of interest. For that seed to germinate and take shape, I have to keep the person informed and up-to-date on our little known ministry. All of this falls under the purview of being a good Exec Director and being a good fund raiser is doing the things donors expect you to do.
So, I am an Exec Director who spends 100% of his time raising money while spending 100% of his time working in the ministry. To me, when a donor gives to our ministry, I have helped him accomplish a goal or dream as well. I have enabled him to give and feel good about it.