TECHNOLOGY | Delegation of Fund Development Practices
When a job is delegated, you expect the individual responsible to have the skills and the knowledge necessary to perform their task(s) effectively. But it is equally important that the delegator understand what is required to perform the job successfully.
In the case of fund development, if an Executive Director has little knowledge of the processes and policies required as part of accepting charitable donations, there is a problem. An effective fund development department requires a mandate to collect quality donor data. This includes advocating for donor management software so that information is recorded without the accumulation of data “clutter” that can hamper the running and ultimate survival of any organization.
To be specific, senior staff should not allocate decisions to staff members without understanding exactly what the role entails. How else can they determine whether the staff member is capable of success? Chaos is the outcome.
Communication and understanding
As leaders, Executive Directors are in constant communication with their staff regarding organizational needs and challenges. When bringing in third-party support to shore up fund development, saying “…the software doesn't meet our needs” without first understanding what the software does, is counter-productive. Guessing is not a successful strategy. For many, this situation is “undiscussable,” but in reality, it happens with frequency.
As a result, senior managers allow individuals, without the necessary skills or understanding, to make decisions that impact the charity and its long-term sustainability. Data falls into complete disarray, information is lost, and donors begin to question their support.
Consider the scenario of a development officer who joins a charity, immediately changes how things are done, and then leaves after only 18 months. Delegating was not only unsuccessful, but it put the organization at risk.
What are the consequences of precious data being passed between applications at the whim of another new (and potentially) short-term staff member?
Did the senior executive understand the software technology and execute due diligence to determine if a change was necessary?
Where does the disconnect lie?
We believe it has to do with technology. Everyone wants to be comfortable with technology, but few are. The consequence is delegation. “Let the fund development people figure out what is needed to be successful.” It is “undiscussable” to talk about technology as no one wants to appear to be at a disadvantage. But let’s be clear; anyone who thinks fundraising is not the most critical function of a charity has never looked at a budget with zero revenue.
Especially in the case of small charities, (with under ten employees) understanding the relevance of a knowledge-driven management system and how it can affect the sustainability of the organization is essential. The excuses of “there is no time” or that senior managers are “too busy” are not acceptable. When a staff member says, “It is confusing,” what they are also saying is “I don't want to.”
The buck stops at the top. Senior managers need to know what to expect from their staff, and they need to ensure their staff has the skills necessary to perform the job. Donors expect a charity to be well-run and responsible. One executive director stated, “we are stewards of their money, which involves trust.”
When there is a loss of control, there is no accountability and therefore no trust. Learning about database technology is an “undiscussable” issue that needs to become a communication priority for management and their staff.