Resolving the fundraising board/staff conflict

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Allyson Hewitt, Executive Director of The Community Information Centre of Metropolitan Toronto facilitated a clinic of particular relevance at the recent Summer Institute. Her session, The Role of the Board in Fundraising touched a number of chords in everyone present, and generated exchanges that resulted in participants learning from each other's experiences.

The agenda included various types of fundraising, principles of philanthropy, axioms of successful giving, and vision and trusteeship. It went beyond the expected, tackling areas of special concern to board members such as cause-related marketing, professionalism, ethics, regulations and the use of consultants.

Hewitt shared the following insights with regard to fundraising conflicts between the board and staff:

  • staff often forget that the board must be asked to ask.
  • team work must be emphasized as a priority.
  • there must be an understanding of how the "other side" sees the world, with regards to fundraising.
  • staff must learn to acknowledge and accept that some board members actually fear fundraising.
  • board members must also acknowledge and accept that some staff actually are fearful of the board.
  • increased staff professionalism in the area of fundraising may result in some staff viewing volunteers as a threat to their professionalism.
  • different socio-economic status between board and staff van be a problem, although that is changing with increased board diversification.

To overcome those barriers Hewitt suggested these strategies:

  • accept that "asking" is just one part of the fundraising process.
  • fundraising is 90% preparation and 10% asking.
  • realize that asking takes many forms.
  • know that asking causes several reactions.
  • educate the board in fundraising and how it contributes to a productive not-for-profit.
  • acknowledge and deal with attitudes that hinder positive involvement.

Perhaps it was summed up best with an overhead that said, "Vision is the art of keeping one's eyes open. Trusteeship is the art of acting on what one sees".

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