BLOG: How do we increase fundraising skills at a trustee level?

‘I just wish my board had more fundraising expertise, and better understood the opportunities and challenges ahead for our fundraising..... and cared more!’

I spend a lot of time working in partnership with charities to recruit director or ‘head of’ fundraising roles. This means I come into contact with a number of CEOs and hiring managers, many of whom, it’s fair to say, do not have boards who understand fundraising, or care particularly for it. In fact our recent survey conducted with the Institute of Fundraising, over 83 per cent of fundraisers surveyed said that fundraising was a skill underrepresented at a board level in organisations they had worked with, or are working with. This is not unique to fundraising (campaigners or digital teams may say the same of their boards!) but it happens often enough that we factor it into our briefing conversations with prospective candidates for the roles we’re recruiting. After all, a senior fundraiser will have multiple touch points at board level and across the organisation, so candidates will need to be aware of the board’s willingness to be involved in fundraising as well as their understanding of the role a board should play in driving a fundraising culture within the charity.

I also regularly hear from fundraisers themselves who are considering new career opportunities away from their employer because of the board. The issue of a lack of fundraising understanding or support at board level feels bigger than their role, and they are powerless to change it. There are some charities in the sector with an above average staff turnover within fundraising and I can’t help but wonder how big a role the board, and SMT, plays in that? How many quality fundraisers are lost because of this issue, and how many charities face problems in attracting staff because the reputation of the board or CEO means fundraisers won’t apply?

Changes in fundraising legislation as well as the desire of certain news outlets to pounce on any charity story, however truthful, relating to governance, fundraising practice or senior stakeholder salaries surely means charities open themselves to undue risk if they have a board unfit to tackle the issues faced in 2016. Gone are the days when expertise in legal, finance, HR or marketing as well as a useful address book were the desirable skills for trustees. The funding landscape has changed, with charities increasingly having to diversify income in order to survive. Coupled with that, technological advancements mean that the way charities engage with both supporters and beneficiaries have moved on. How can charities possibly keep up with the times without improving their board’s understanding of these areas?

So this is why we’ve arrived at GetRaising! an event in King’s Cross, London on 7th June 4pm-7pm focussed on bringing together top quality fundraising talent with the charities who need them. We will be hearing for guest speakers including Iain McAndrew, professional fundraiser and trustee of ADD International giving us a future shock on what will happen if we don’t act now, as well as Nicola Bye, senior head of voluntary fundraising at ActionAid and trustee of Teach a Man to Fish, joined in conversation by Rachel Dale, previously fundraising manager at Teach a Man to Fish, to discuss the impact Nicola could have as a professional fundraiser on a trustee board. And then it is over to you, to answer some of the biggest challenges over wine and nibbles.

Thanks to our lovely friends at Hubbub, it is free to attend. To reserve you place on this event, please go to:

Simon Callaghan is the director, fundraising appointments at Peridot Partners

NB. A version of this blog was originally published here.

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