In my own experience, two heads are better than one

Valerie Morton offers advice on whether charities should combine fundraising and communications roles or have separate managers for each discipline

Valerie Morton
Valerie Morton

Q: Should I have separate fundraising and communications managers on my senior management team, or is it better to combine the two roles?

A: Hardly a week goes by without there being an article or blog about this issue, and the majority of people writing or commenting come out in favour of a combined post. I am going to give you an experience-based case to break with that trend.

First, a definition and a caveat. We use the term 'comms' in a very generic fashion. It can encompass PR, marketing, direct marketing, membership, public affairs and a host of other disciplines. I believe the vast majority of charities have the need for some of these but, depending on the size of the charity, the relative importance of each discipline will vary. If your charity is small and your comms function is limited, then you are unlikely to be able to justify two roles - certainly not two full-time ones.

Those who advocate a joint post often say that fundraising and comms are closely linked and interdependent. The impression given is that, without joint management, the two disciplines will plough their own furrows. I have two problems with this rationale.

First, it misses the point that every part of a charity is ultimately under one manager - namely the chief executive - so what we are discussing in reality is simply how far down the management chain the split happens.

Second, and more worryingly, the approach implies that people cannot work together, strategically or practically, unless they are all part of one team. It is a very sad indictment of the culture of a charity if direct line management is a prerequisite for effective working.

I have worked in a number of organisations where there have been separate comms and fundraising functions. In each case, we all had very clear responsibilities and understood the interdependence. We respected each other and our respective skills. We worked together as grown-ups to achieve the organisation's corporate objectives.

If this doesn't convince you, then there is always the recruitment argument. Finding good senior managers can be difficult at the best of times. For many people, applying for a post at that level is a step up the career ladder. So the post-holder will often have come from either a fundraising background or a communications background. As a consequence, the one they are most comfortable with gets their attention, to the detriment of the other.

If you don't have the resources to have two posts, then you might consider part-time appointments. So many people these days are seeking flexibility in employment. You might just find this approach gets you two great employees for the price of one.

Valerie Morton is a trainer, fundraiser and consultant

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