Senior charity staff are not providing enough support for relationship-based fundraising, choosing instead to focus on short-term targets, according to the fundraising think tank Rogare.
In its report Relationship Fundraising: Where Do We Go From Here? Breaking Down the Barriers, published this week, the think tank argues that a lack of confidence in fundraising as a profession is also preventing the growth of relationship fundraising.
Relationship fundraising can be broadly defined as fundraising that is based around a long-term, sustained relationship with regular donors, rather than trying to persuade people to give one-off donations each time they're asked.
The report is part of Rogare’s continuing project to review relationship fundraising and is the result of two seminars held by Rogare’s International Advisory Panel in London and Colorado Springs in the US, during which members discussed the major barriers to relationship fundraising and possible solutions.
The report identifies a range of what it describes as cultural issues, including a "lack of support from board and senior management" and a failure to invest, "stemming from lack of board and senior management team support and focus on short-term targets".
The report says: "Much of this is driven by the limited understanding of fundraising among trustees and board members, while fundraising’s lack of status and representation at senior levels, compared to departments such as brand and marketing, make it hard to provide this information."
It says there is reluctance to spend money on relationship fundraising because of public pressure to keep administration and fundraising costs low.
Many of the barriers might stem from fundraising not being seen as a profession, the report says, which leads to fundraisers lacking status in their organisation and lacking professional self-confidence. This prevents organisations from strategically prioritising fundraising, it adds, and leads to high staff turnover.
The report notes that high staff turnover can create a better environment for more short-term transactional fundraising, whereas building relationships with donors requires fundraisers to stay with organisations for a prolonged period of time. But it questions whether this is a cause of problems with relationship fundraising or an effect.
It also identifies a lack of understanding among fundraisers of how to measure the success of relationship fundraising.
Part of the solution, the report suggests, is to ensure that information about relationship best practice and research is widely available, that ideas on the subject are presented in an interesting way and that fundraiser success is measured not just by financial metrics but also by how satisfied donors are.
The report says charities should "be literally donor-centric by bringing donors to board meetings and strategy meetings as fundraising is being planned to help change the culture of philanthropy by literally focusing attention on donors – ‘bring the donor into the room’".
For its part, Rogare says in the report that it will develop a set of metrics by which to gauge the success of relationship fundraising and establish an award for best use of relationship fundraising.
"It was felt that recognising good relationship fundraising – fundraising that also developed and measured the relationship, not just the amount of money raised – would raise awareness and encourage its use (everyone likes to get recognised for doing a good job)," the report says.