10 ways we fail Community Fundraisers


We fail community fundraisers. All the time, every day, for years and years.  Its time we were honest and did something about it.

I’m not saying community fundraisers are angels or perfect somehow. There’s a pretty long list of let downs you’d probably find far too often in that world. Inability to understand a spreadsheet. Convulsion at the prospect of filling a database in. Moaning about head office.

I’m generalising of course ..and probably very unfair, though I’d challenge you to not recognise a few of these or more characteristics at least somewhere nearby and recently which in itself is not good enough. Move this to one side for now. We are not all perfect. Good and bad, competent and not so is everywhere. But lets face it – its a tough job community. The front line, a real foot soldier, endless challenges, complicated requests, demanding people, conflicting priorities and expectations. It’s hard to get right with such demands. But its even harder when Community Fundraisers aren’t supported. Poor leadership, weak management, process that gets in the way rather than help is too frequent and widespread. Here are 10 specific failings;

  1. Having poor relationships with community fundraisers, not knowing who they are and not bothering to find out about them
  2. Displaying an arrogance and superiority complex
  3. Not understanding or having an affinity with the audience they serve
  4. Creating pointless rules and process
  5. Not hearing what’s needed and by when by the Community Fundraiser, who wants to help the supporter, and not delivering what’s needed and when, having involved everyone who doesn’t need to be involved
  6. Creating materials and tools for the field that don’t work, haven’t been thought through and that have nothing to do with the target audience
  7. Requiring reporting on things that don’t matter every 10 minutes rather than reporting the things that do
  8. Making the brand the principle excuse or reason to do the wrong thing or worse nothing at all
  9. Not taking responsibility to fix things or solve things, even when its their job and then leaving the Community Fundraiser to fix it, only to then be told off when they do because they didn’t do it right
  10. Not taking time to train people, not integrating, not joining up, not being part of and behaving as if Community is from another planet

This failure is in all of us. And it’s not good enough. But, failing can be good if we learn, adapt and move on. So can we do that? Are we able to be better? Probably, but only with goodwill, openness, honesty, a respect for the audience, an understanding of roles, some systems and processes that are efficient and effective, a brand that works at all levels and is pragmatic and flexible, standards that are adhered to, and above all – relationships, integration and the final two saviours –  donor first and leadership.

Posted in Brand, Charity, Community, Donors, Emotions, Fundraising, Giving, Ideas, Innovation, Insight, Leadership, Management, Not for profit, Philanthropy, Strategy, Teams, Teamwork, Volunteers and tagged , , , , , , , , .

One Comment

  1. Its great to see this recognition of the poor relation we have made our community fundraisers. I am in the midst of writing a community and events module to deliver for the University of Chichester’s Charity Development Degree and what strikes me is the extent of the missed opportunities resulting from failing to invest in the development and integration of community fundraising. When considering the skills and knowledge required of our community fundraisers, frankly, what don’t they need to know? The breadth and variety of channels to manage; networks to develop; products, events and activities to design and deliver; vast range of audiences to understand and effectively target; challenges of volunteer management; risks to control and legislation to comply with; and myriad supporter entry points requiring donor journeys. The growth in mass participation events is indicative of the potential that we have left untapped in recent years due to a lack of investment in staff, measurement, research and innovation. There are huge challenges ahead, not least our ageing volunteers and being able to measure the value of community fundraising beyond just its financial return.But, is community fundraising entering a new phase ripe for development ? The phenomenon of the ice bucket challenge (despite its downsides) underlines the extent of the public’s desire for challenge and fun and does Macmillan’s ability to reinvigorate and increase income from a mature product like the world’s biggest coffee morning gives us confidence in the value of the tried and tested? Has the power of reaching online communities completely changed where we should set our horizons and concept of community fundraising? If so we need to make sure that our community fundraisers are supported, enabled, trained, integrated and have the same cultural status as our DM gurus, digital divas, corporate champions and mighty major donor fundraisers.

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