Simone Joyaux believed that being an enlightened fundraiser involved more than just raising funds. Here is an example of the wisdom she shared with the nonprofit community during her 35-year career.

This article was originally published on 1 October, 2010.

There are fundraisers, and then there are organisational development specialists: change agents serving the entire organisation and looking beyond the immediate need for funds. Every organisation needs its own in-house organisational development specialists to survive and flourish. And you, the development officer, must be one of these specialists.

Defining organisational development

Wikipedia’s definition of organisational development is as good as any:

“… a planned, organisation-wide effort to increase an organisation’s effectiveness and viability.”

According to Warren Bennis, U.S. scholar and one of the foremost authorities on organisational development, leadership, and change, organisation development (OD) is a complex strategy intended to change the beliefs, attitudes, values, and structure of organisations so that they can better adapt to new technologies, markets, and challenges.

Wearing my fundraising hat, I think of organisational development as all those other activities that affect an agency’s effectiveness … and affect fund development, too.

Why does organisational development matter?

Organisational development matters even more than fundraising techniques, because fund development is about much more than asking for money!

Fund development includes solicitation strategies, response rates, case statements, and volunteer management, but it’s about everything else in your organisation first. And it’s the ‘everything else’ that affects every area of performance, and is so challenging and often messy.

Consider these issues, all of which affect fund development, but none of which stem from fund development.

Is your organisation sufficiently relevant to the community to secure sufficient support, e.g. respect, trust and good will, clients, board members and other volunteers, and also donors and gifts? Does your organisation effectively nurture relationships with diverse constituents including clients, community influencers, media, regulators? Are your staff effective enablers, empowering volunteers to do the best they can – volunteers of all kinds including direct service, fundraising, board members? How effective is your organisation at planning and decision-making, and securing quality information to plan and make quality decisions? Does your organisation regularly examine itself and the external environment, discussing the findings and learning and changing when necessary?

Each of these organisational development issues along with many others affect an organisation’s viability, sustainability and ability to raise charitable contributions.

Probably more than 75% of fundraising challenges which arise daily are not fundraising problems, but organisational development issues which affect fundraising. So just being a good (or great) fundraising technician cannot solve these other issues.

Your organisation is one system

Your organisation is one system, made up of interconnected and interrelated parts. The best fundraisers know this. That’s why I call them organisational development specialists. They embrace systems thinking, a critical business theory that is the cornerstone of organisational development. These fundraisers see interrelationships rather than linear chains. These fundraisers acknowledge the whole whose parts relate and operate for a common purpose.

These technicians focus almost exclusively on fundraising strategies and tactics to meet their organisation’s financial need. The best technicians believe deeply in their causes, understand philanthropy, know how to create infrastructure, document activities, and delineate roles. These excellent technicians use sophisticated solicitation strategies, negotiate major gifts, engage donors, and provide competent support to volunteers.

Are you a great fundraising technician? Or are you more? I hope you’re an organisational development specialist – a change agent leading the fund development operation. Because that’s what it takes to do fund development really well.

Being a fundraising technician is not enough. It never has been, although the fundraising profession seems to have pretended so for decades. There’s another kind of fundraiser, a more enlightened one.

Profile of an organisational development specialist

The truly accomplished fundraiser is an organisational development specialist. She expects access to all parts of the organisation and convinces the chief executive officer of this need.

The organisational development specialist is familiar with contemporary management theory and uses it to expand the organisation’s view of fund development. She reads lots of books and blogs outside the fund development profession, even outside the nonprofit sector.

This truly accomplished fundraiser probes into areas of the organisation that fundraising technicians would consider out of bounds. Areas such as board recruitment, helping devise programs that are relevant to the community, and involving all staff in the process of developing relationships that support the organisation. She actively participates in governance, organisation-wide strategic planning and evaluation, community needs assessment, and marketing and communications.

The accomplished fundraiser is a systems thinker, seeing both the forest and the trees. He knows what makes systems work and what makes them flounder. He’s a consummate enabler, empowering volunteers and staff to participate meaningfully on behalf of the organisation.

He’s a critical thinker, asking the tough questions about fund development, organisational operations, and relevance to the community. He’s a strategist, who helps the organisation determine where it wants to go and how to get there.

The accomplished fundraiser identifies relevant information and helps others understand the implications of the information. She anticipates and solves problems and takes advantage of opportunities across the organisation.

The executive director needs to be an organisational development specialist, too. And you can be an organisational development specialist no matter your position. I know a young woman who learned about organisation development as a development assistant. She asked the right questions and the toughest questions. She went to her boss and her boss’ boss, offered her insights, asked her questions and expressed her interest. And now she’s directing a whole division of the organisation.

The road to transformation

It’s your choice: are you going to be an organisational development specialist or just another great fundraising technician? Come on. Launch yourself on the road to transformation. And if you’re already this truly accomplished organisational development fundraiser, then help others. Quit talking so much about tactics and tools. Demand workshops and articles that go beyond.

We need more organisational development specialists in our organisations. We need change agents to strengthen the profession and the sector.

Simone Joyaux worked in the nonprofit sector for 35 years and is recognised as a leading international consultant and author. Her areas of expertise included fundraising, leadership, strategy and management. 

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