Finger-pointing doesn’t raise a dime

Rarely a week goes by that I don’t hear from an exasperated CEO seeking help in ratcheting up his or her board’s involvement in fundraising. If board members were only doing their part, all would be well for the nonprofit organization represented on the other end of the phone line. Or so the CEO’s comments imply – and not without legitimacy.

Writing in The Board Member’s Guide to Fund Raising, development pioneer Fisher Howe stated: “If the [organization] is having trouble raising money, don’t look at the development office, don’t look to the chief executive, first check out the board of trustees.” Howe’s comment has elicited many a “told you so” over the years.


But wait. There’s more than enough responsibility for fundraising to go around. That’s my message when I present on shared (participatory) governance – much to the delight of development staff and the chagrin of most others. Consider the following statements.

“Rather than being an optional activity for the president and dean, fundraising today is central to their role of institutional leader and administrator. The more presidents and deans understand and embrace that expectation, the more successful they will be as university leaders.” J. Bradford Hodson in Leading the Way: The Role of Presidents and Deans in Fundraising

“. . . the development program that does not have the understanding and support of faculty leaders faces enormous difficulties in persuading others that its objectives are worthy and its dollar goals are valid.” Handbook for Educational Fundraising

 “Survey after survey identifies fundraising and resource development as being at the top of the list when it comes to institutional concerns of leaders in theological education. Almost no president these days is exempt from fundraising, and success in financial development has become synonymous with effective leadership.” “The President’s Role in Institutional Advancement” by Sam Calian, Bob Leavitt, and me, from A Handbook for Seminary Presidents


In other words, it takes a team to raise a budget. Everyone—CEO, development officers, the board, and even program staff—can/should be involved in raising the money so necessary to mission fulfillment. It’s everyone’s work to help move their organization from survival to financial vitality.

And as for the finger-pointing, it doesn’t raise a dime. Unless, of course, the pointer’s point is to point folks in the direction of teamwork. Anything else is a pointless gesture.

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