7 mistakes CEO’s make when hiring a Fundraising Director


You want to drive growth and fundraising is the way forward. You have a portfolio of income and need a director to deliver and grow. You need a fundraising director. A superhero. A saviour.

When it comes to hiring a Fundraising Director, the sector is littered with corpses. Poor hires, bad matches, weak briefs, change in direction, leadership mediocrity. Sometimes its inspired and magical, but sometimes is not enough. So what are the common mistakes made. Here are my top 7. There are actually 238 but we don’t have room or time.

Mistake No 1 – Not understanding what you really want them to do

So – basically the CEO or Chair hasn’t thought this through. The absence of clarity then begins a journey only to be made through a fog so thick, Jack the Ripper is the only one happy. This then translates into a very painful and very unnecessary car crash. Metaphors aside, you get what I’m saying.

Mistake No 2 – Not getting buy in from those who need to buy in

Trustees, Chair, Exec – it’s not about permission, but it is about good management. The very people who you need onside as you drive income need to understand and sign up to making it work. Leaving them to make up their minds or play actively against because they have a different agenda should be made a criminal offence. Alignment wins every time

Mistake No 3 – Not managing expectations or authority

What do you expect? Honestly? Treble income by thursday? Restructured and a strategy complete by next monday? No plan or expectation just that everyone gets on? And then when in post – can’t decide, can’t spend, have to get permission and then have to report on a thing they didn’t agree with and didn’t decide. Usually a Finance chap from a Bank who’s brought in to save people. In short no authority. Big error.

Mistake No 4 – Hiring a person but with no money to spend or invest

Great plan. Get a top person in, everyone loves, excited. But no money to spend. No expectation of investment, no cash, no room. This kills fundraising and hiring talent without spend is like recruiting a footballer who has no ball or worse no balls.

Mistake No 5 – Making the Fundraising Director report to brand or communications

Theres a scene in a Month Python film, where the ancient Knight steadily loses a sword fight. As each limb is severed one by one, the surviving body hops on defiantly, optimistically, determined to carry on. Whilst not as severe, the reality is what Fundraising Directors need to do is often not allowed to be done. Salami sliced I think the very excellent Alan Clayton said. No brand ever build a charity. Fundraising did. Get over it.

Mistake No 6 – Hiring someone and not supporting their development

Talent and experience are hard to find and its understandable that you may make compromises. But hiring someone without support, coaching and nurturing is a poor investment. Hire a coach, get a mentor, build a development programme – and most of all – buy them lunch and well – talk

Mistake No 7 – Not creating a culture in which fundraising can thrive and succeed

Hiring a director is more than a hire. Its a signal of commitment and strategy. Organisations that have a fundraising culture, where everyone gets that its important and know that they need to help make it work, where the donor is at the centre, where people work together are organisations that will succeed. Cultures where you behave like a fundraiser at every level are cultures that honour the donor and usually thrive. So lead that and hey ho.

Easy mistakes to make for sure and common too. But take advice, look at it in the round, and pay attention. Invest in the person as much as the strategy and above all, believe and champion fundraising.

Posted in Boards, Charity, Donors, Fundraising, Giving, Ideas, Insight, Leadership, Management, Not for profit, people, Philanthropy, Teams, Third Sector and tagged , , , , , , , , , .

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