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Does your charity have a Fundraising Culture?

Does your charity have a Fundraising Culture?

When we carry out reviews of fundraising operations, one issue we investigate is the extent to which a fundraising culture has been developed in a charity. If it has, then this can greatly aid fundraising and enhance results. If not, the fundraising team can struggle and results will also suffer.

In some organisations, fundraising is delegated to the paid staff, who are expected to raise funds unaided, simply as their job function. Here, fundraising is just another role, alongside service delivery, finance and so on.

In other organisations, fundraising is owned and carried across the charity as a whole, where everyone from trustees, senior management, frontline staff and volunteers all take pride in representing the organisation externally, in being ambassadors and in helping to bring in the money by using their contacts and external opportunities to promote the charity. This type of organisation tends to raise more.

How to identify a Fundraising Culture

So how do we identify whether a fundraising culture exists within an organisation and whether fundraising is fully valued, supported and resourced? There are a number of questions we can ask:

  • Is fundraising properly resourced or is it expected to raise increasing targets with a small or diminishing resource?
  • Is fundraising represented at the top of the organisation, e.g. at senior management level?
  • Are the needs of fundraisers understood by the people who manage them?
  • Do trustees and the CEO see themselves as having a role to play in fundraising, or is it simply delegated?
  • Do staff and trustees donate to the charity or carry out fundraising on its behalf?
  • Is there any fundraising experience on the board?
  • Is fundraising celebrated in the organisation (for example when a success is achieved)?
  • Are the board and senior staff willing to ask for money or do they delegate this entirely?
  • How do other staff regard the fundraising team (for example as important allies who help raise their salaries or as just a necessary evil)?
  • Are fundraising staff allowed to communicate directly with the trustees or are they held at arm’s length?
  • How are fundraising targets set? Top down or bottom up? If top down (and especially if set by people who do not understand fundraising) then a fundraising culture probably does not yet exist.

  • Cultural Spectrum

    On the basis of these and similar questions, it is possible to place a charity on a spectrum, with “fundraising as a function” at one end and “full fundraising culture” at the other. Most charities sit somewhere in between.

    So how does your charity compare? Is your organisational culture working for you or against you? If against you and your fundraising team, what can you do about it? Next month, we will look at what steps an organisation can take to change its culture and thereby increase its fundraising results.


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