Why aren’t more leading fundraising professionals on Not for Profit Boards?

Why indeed when for many Australian NfP’s fundraised income is their largest source of income or provides the difference dollars delivering novel, transformative programs and services. Why indeed “when the most significant benefit of having fundraising expertise at CEO and board levels is strategic direction/oversight (as opposed to additional people ‘asking’ for support)” (1) 

The Australian Institute of Company Directors Good Guidance for NfP Organisations list as a good mix for membership of NfP Boards – Strategic expertise, Accounting and finance, Legal, Managing people and achieving change, Specific NFP/industry knowledge and, finally, Experience with dynamics of fundraising.

How beautifully expressed, experience with dynamics in fundraising; sounds like you need a fundraising professional on your board, right? A ‘qualified’ fundraising professional, a Member of Fundraising Institute Australia and preferably a Certified Fund-Raising Executive (CFRE).

In my experience board level fundraising expertise is most typically volunteer ‘expertise’; for example, experience in serving on a volunteer fundraising campaign or event committee. Whether you’re a legal, finance, marketing, PR or fundraising professional serving on a NfP Board, you understand the terrifying truth behind Alexander Pope’s … A little learning is a dangerous thing.

So what’s at stake here, what’s the cost benefit of having a qualified fundraising professional on your NfP board … when the most significant benefit of having fundraising expertise at CEO and board levels is strategic direction/oversight? The ACPNP study(1) found that when setting fundraising targets (not to be confused with setting fundraising budgets) approximately half of targets were set by the NfP CEO, a quarter were set by the Board and just a quarter by the fundraising professional. What’s that all about!

The targets referred to here are typically annual targets. The fundraising expertise NfP Boards desperately need are fundraising professionals with experience in developing 3 to 5 year fundraising business plans, aligned to the organisations strategic plan. They need to be part of the board’s comprehensive institutional strategic planning process … because for many Australian NfP’s fundraised income is their largest source of income or provides the difference dollars delivering novel, transformative programs and services.

When revisiting the aptly titled ACPNP study ‘Who’s asking for what? Fundraising Leadership in Australian Nonprofits’ I was stuck by this …

Fundraisers are reflecting that more insights to this area on the board may boost success and organisational leaders are indicating that these skills are covered by their existing governance approaches. It would be possible, indeed probably desirable to include fundraising as a topic in the range of board training courses on the market. The more critical issue is for an organisation to determine whether these skills are indeed part of a well-rounded governance makeup for their organisation.

(1)   Scaife, Wendy A., Williamson, Alexandra, & McDonald, Katie (2013) Who’s asking for what? Fundraising and leadership in Australian nonprofits. Australian Centre of Philanthropy and NonProfit Studies, QUT Brisbane





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It’s time fundraising managers are heard and even listened to!

Fundraising Management for Professional Development – Are you being heard, do you deserve to be heard?As professional fundraisers, a primary objective is to efficiently and progressively increase fundraising income. We call this ‘fundraising development’.A cursive assumption many boards and CEOs make is that you (the Fundraising Manager / Director) will affect fundraising programs and systems to change the charity’s very fundraising dynamic, and be able to do so with minimal additional investment in the ‘development function’, or even in you!That’s why you need to be heard, to be able to articulate the need for fundraising investment long-term. But how do you articulate that in language that will be heard by your line manager, CEO and board? What is your strategic fundraising plan, how do you develop it, how do you present it with impact and be listened to? That requires leadership skills, not just fundraising or fundraising management skills.

This new all day workshop, specifically for Fundraising Managers and Directors, aims to help you focus on developing your strategic fundraising planning and leadership skills. It will be co-facilitated by Peter Dalton FFIA CFRE, Director, fundraisingfutures, and Sharon Hillman FFIA, Director of Fundraising, Austin Health / Olivia Newton-John Cancer & Wellness Centre Appeal.

Date: Tuesday 14 July

Time: 8.30am – 4.00pm

Venue: St Joseph’s Hall, 274 Rouse Street, Port Melbourne

Pricing: Member: $220; Staff of Organisational Member: $250; Non-Member: $285




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Are you being heard … do you deserve to be heard?

Hey executive fundraiser, are you being heard, do you deserve to be heard?!

Ever heard of a fundraising director being appointed the NFP CEO … not very often? Even when 90% or more of the NFP’s income is fundraising income? Ever heard of a Finance Director, COO or even Marketing Director being appointed the NFP CEO … quite often?

Is the fact that so few fundraising directors become NFP CEO’s because they lack ambition or because the term fundraising professional and institutional leader are at odds with NFP Board members?

Surely fundraising directors managing a large staff, budgets in the millions and running community wide cause positioning public relation campaigns, tick all the CEO recruitment criteria boxes. So when headhunting for a NFP CEO how many executive fundraising leaders are in the frame of boards and their executive recruiting agencies … not many?

Fundraising directors not only need to be part of a NFP’s executive team, they need to be listed to, to be heard by the executive team, the CEO and the Board

If you’re a fundraising director or manager how would you answer this question … Are you being heard, do you deserve to be heard? If you’re not being listed too by your line manager or the CEO consider this




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Digital fundraising likely to be a bigger part of the future?

In market circles, it is predicted that by 2018, some 80% of marketing will be digital.

As we know, fundraising is in many respects just another type of marketing.

Fundraisers are selling intangibles, but it is still a marketing approach.

So what level of fundraising will be digital in the future?

What’s your view?

And what are the new digital fundraising opportunities?

With capital and major gift campaigns, what will be the impact of digital technology? For example, so-called big data is likely to allow new types of donor research.

Every industry is being disrupted by the digital future.

What is the digital fundraising future?

Let’s know your thoughts?


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Making things happen in fundraising

From planning to execution:

Management and leadership at the FIA Conference in 2015.

Fundraising is a strategic business. But how do we capture and articulate a clear and actionable strategy, how do we make big dreams become reality, how do we get the job done, and how do we measure our progress? All this and more will be covered in this end to end session on planning.

  • Simone Joyaux – Strategic planning for fundraising & big things fundraisers need to do
  • Sue Hunt – BIG Hairy Goals – what you need to do to make them real
  • Peter Dalton – Turning plans into action – models for operationalising fundraising plans
  • Mick McDade – Applying a Balanced Score Card approach to fundraising


I’m really looking forward to be joining Simone, Sue and Mick on the panel for this discussion and answering your questions. So start thinking!

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Executive Fundraising Leadership


Achieving impact through fundraising won’t be accomplished by just being competent in fundraising practice. The reality is that so many well-structured fundraising efforts are frustrated and even blocked by organisational issues.

As a fundraising manager you need to be more than a fundraiser – much, much more. Fundraising management, leadership and organisational development are all essential capabilities if you are truly going to influence fundraising results.

With Nigel Harris FFIA CFRE, the Executive Director of the Mater Foundation in Brisbane and myself, the Fundraising Institute of Australia is providing a one day intensive course for senior fundraisers.

Nigel has been with the Mater for nearly 20 years, the most part of a 30 year career specialising in the health and disability sectors. I’ve known Nigel for most of his fundraising career and he is arguably leading the best structured and most successful fundraising development office in the Australian health sector.

Between the two of us we’ll be looking at the roles of  fundraising managers and leaders, how to understand organisations and people, management models and managing teams, and what planning, reporting and accountabilities we face as professional fundraisers.


Sydney Wednesday 12 November

Melbourne Thursday 13 November

Brisbane Monday 24 November

Further details can be obtained from the FIA website.

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Are Australian fundraisers becoming too specialist?

Is it just me or are we professional fundraisers becoming pigeon holed? We seem to increasingly work in silos and frankly I think we just need to get out a bit more!

In July, literally on my birthday, I presented to the Fundraising Institute of Australia’s Major Gifts Special Interest Group in Melbourne. In many ways it was my best birthday present because I used to chair the group and because I just love major gift fundraising; it’s as if I was born for it. Anyway, the topic I was asked to present on was ‘Before and After the Ask’, that’s Asking for a major gift personally, professionally and passionately; I really do love it you see.

For those of you steeped in major gift fundraising you will realise that I was asked to present on two key steps in The Art of Asking process. But I have a confession to make, and for which I now duly apologise to anyone who attended my presentation and thought I was actually going to limit my presentation to those two essential parts of the major gift Asking process.

To test my gut feeling that fundraisers are becoming increasing differentiated from each other, in the sense that major gifts practitioners are working in isolation from direct response, social media, event and even bequest practitioners, I decided to do something quite radical for my presentation … no PowerPoint presentation!! No, just a whiteboard.

For my presentation I asked some of the experienced major gift fundraisers in the room to help me draw some of our professions best practice fundraising paradigms. So we created on the whiteboard a Donor Pyramid, a Circle of Giving, three Distribution of Giving Pyramids and even touched on the donor Life Time Value equation.

Throughout the session I posed two questions in respect of each of the paradigms we had drawn. Firstly, what areas on the paradigm were part of the major gift process and secondly, in respect of the organisation where you work NOW ….. how is the Art of Asking (for major gifts) process integrated with the other parts of the paradigm, as part of a Total Development fundraising Program?

I observed that most fundraisers in the session could contribute the first question, very few to the second one.

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“After the Ask”

The Fundraising Institute of Australia, Major Gifts Special Interest Group, will be hosting an ‘Ask the Expert’ event, Tuesday 8 July from 12:00 at the Telstra Head Office in Melbourne for both FIA members and non-members.

This event will provide information and advice on what you need to do ‘after the Ask’ and give you some ideas on what you probably should have considered ‘before the Ask’.

Nurturing donors and the cultural aspects of Major Donor management is an area that is often under-resourced or given little attention. However, careful planning and coordination of resources will allow you to successfully manage a thriving Major donor program.

I will look forward to seeing you there and speaking about this further.

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Yes, There Is An Art Of Asking, Virginia

There are terrifyingly timid times in our lives when asking for something special means everything to us, like the first time you asked that special someone for a first date, or even worse, asking them on a second date! What about asking your boss for that pay rise, promotion or chance to prove yourself?

At these truly dramatic moments have you ever asked yourself … why on earth did I say that?! … and immediately afterwards thought to yourself … if only I had said … but the thing is, if you had said that something different, do you know if it really would have made a difference? Well professional fundraisers do, professional fundraisers steeped in the Art of Asking for major gifts.

To succeed and build a career as a major gifts fundraiser you need to learn, practice and apply the Art of Asking for major gifts. It’s a process, a discipline, with learnings that can be applied to everyday life. It’s an Art because the more you practise it, the more disciplined and creative you are in its application, the better you’ll be at it.

But just how does a successful Ask engage the ‘right’ people in the ‘right’ way? How does a fundraiser skilled in the Art of Asking create powerful, lasting connections between an organisation and its community leaders? How does ‘how you Ask’ lead to you successfully enlisting the time, talent and treasure of CEO’s and Board members, philanthropists, even companies, to support campaigns and causes? How do you reinvent your Ask for the next challenge?

My experiences of applying Art of Asking best practice have allowed me to transform fundraising programs, to enlist the support of individuals of the calibre of Olivia Newton-John, Andrew Demetriou and Sir David Frost, amongst many others. In February, at the Fundraising Institute of Australia’s National Conference in Melbourne, I will be conducting a Masterclass: Applying the Art of Asking across all fundraising programs – the one skill the professional fundraiser must have, reinventing Asking best practice – from donor acquisition to bequests, donor development to corporate sponsorship; even to enlisting institution volunteers, ambassadors and board members.

This Masterclass is intended to provide you with a deeper understanding of the principles and practice of the ‘Art of Asking’ process. You will know how and when to strategically apply the Art of Asking. How to selectively apply best Asking practice to bespoke fundraising programs you are part of. You will be able to confidently deliver Art of Asking presentations and training to development staff, volunteers, non-profit executive staff and boards knowing you are applying the very best practice.

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Are we any wiser 16 years on….

What can we learn today from Princess Diana’s tragic death way back in 1997 … and what has fundraising best practice got to do with it?

Welcome to my first Blog and a discussion on how contemporary fundraising and management issues are pressuring some cherished pillars of fundraising best practice.

In 2000 I wrote The Key to Fundraising Success primarily for community organisations. In 2013 I’m reinventing it, rewriting and contemporising it for a broader audience – state, national and international institutions that, to varying degrees, are increasingly reliant on fundraising. Reliant on difference dollars, on donations that differentiate them from kindred institutions and causes, literally transforming them from good to great, transforming them through transformational gifts. But the thing is … institution transformational gifts are rarely realised by good luck instead they are the result of the application of major gift best fundraising practice!

So as I’m rewriting The Key to Fundraising Success (2000), I’m inviting you to contribute to its content: chapter by chapter, issue by issue, blog by blog … when relevant to you.

This is how I began, way back when …

Do you remember where you were when you first heard about the accident and then the tragic death of Princess Di? Think about it for a moment. Now ask yourself, can you name the philanthropic trust that was established in her memory?

In the frenetic outpouring of emotion immediately after Princess Diana’s death in 1997 hundreds of thousands of ordinary people around the world sent money in tribute to Diana, for the causes she supported during her lifetime. Within a week of Diana’s death the British press were reporting that £160,000 was being donated every day.

But what were those charitable causes, can you name them, and how was the money to be spent? Did the people who donated the money know? Did they even really care? Were they giving to the causes Diana supported or to the memory of Diana? What motivated them to give? The truth is that the vast majority of donors didn’t know and they didn’t need to care because they trusted Diana.

In their overwhelmingly emotional response people were giving to the memory of Diana, the person, not the causes she championed. There is perhaps no greater recent example of what really motivates people to give, to donate to a cause or a community group. What really motivates them is other people … because people give to people not to causes; can you believe it?

What is today’s Princess Diana story? A story which highlights the most powerful and for many the most challenging fundraising principle … people give to people not to causes.

For over five years I had the privilege of working with Olivia Newton-John on The Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Appeal. How many of the thousands of Appeal donors donated because of Olivia? How many of them would have donated if Olivia had no association with the Appeal, if instead it had been simply, the Austin Health Cancer Centre Appeal?

Retired Australian Football League (AFL) great Shane Crawford cycled 3600 kilometres from Melbourne to Perth to raise funds for Breast Cancer Network Australia. How many of the thousands of donors who sponsored ‘Crawf’s’ ride will be first time donors to Breast Cancer Network Australia, a breast cancer charity or even a cancer charity? Were they donating because they heard the ride was for Breast Cancer Network Australia or because they admired what Crawf was doing and because they think he’s a good bloke?

What do you think?


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