Who Bears the Responsibility for Fundraising?

Who Bears the Responsibility for Fundraising?

This question stirs up many emotions and draws a wide range of responses in nonprofit circles, especially when posed to board members and trustees. In a recent discussion on Boardsource, opinions ranged from none to their primary responsibility. Reality is somewhere in the middle. On the full responsibility side, it's difficult to make a case to ask someone else to contribute funds if the person asking has not done so. On the other side, the primary function of the board of directors is to provide oversight for operations.

There is a fiduciary responsibility to make sure the nonprofit acts in both legal and ethical ways to be good stewards of the assets entrusted to the nonprofit. Fundraising is not something they have the time or responsibility to undertake. This commitment is often time consuming too. So, who is right? I agree with the validity of both viewpoints. People are often asked to serve on boards because of their asset base and their influence. Demands are often made of the same people by many organizations seeking support to keep their agencies operating. I find many of the people that do serve in this capacity do it for three to five different agencies in their communities.

Those who serve on nonprofit boards are people of purpose with a deep desire to serve. They are often faced with overwhelm when one or more of the organizations they serve places them in the position of "open-ended" commitments that are poorly defined. The resultant drain on time causes burnout and stress. Another situation arises when board members are compelled to "pay to play." Requirements to contribute or raise a specific amount of money frequently discourages people without large asset bases and personal networks from serving on nonprofit boards.

They often have talents and skills that these organizations must find funds to pay for without their voluntary commitment. The real answer to our primary question is that everyone in the organization bears some responsibility for fundraising, or more accurately defined, "resource development." People are the most important asset ANY organization has for creating "value" in the communities they serve.

Each nonprofit must define the level of responsibility the board of directors bears for raising funds, but the most successful organizations have a "culture of fundraising" that supports shared responsibility and balance necessary for each person to fulfill the primary roles they serve in the organization. The basis for effective nonprofits lie in the talents skills and desire of the team that has been assembled to carry out the mission. When these are viewed as critical resources, they too are valuable assets that help sustain the operation. We must keep in mind that money keeps the whole thing going!