The following post is adapted from “The Corner Office — Full Speed Ahead: How Development Directors are Taking a Leadership Role Through Vision, Resilience, and Commitment to Mission,” by Paul Lagasse, Advancing Philanthropy, Winter 2016 (reprinted with permission) You can read the whole article here.
UnderDeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising, the 2013 survey of executive directors and development directors conducted by CompassPoint Nonprofit Services (www.compasspoint.org) and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund (www.haasjr.org), identified a “vicious cycle” of conditions within many nonprofits that was not only driving frustrated development directors out the door, but also making it difficult for organizations to bring in new development directors to replace them. The cause of the cycle, the survey concluded, was the lack of a “culture of philanthropy” that encouraged staff and volunteers to see themselves as donor-focused ambassadors of their organizations.
Having identified the problem and its causes, the Haas, Jr. Fund,
CompassPoint, and Klein & Roth Consulting (www.kleinandroth.com) in Oakland, California, has since undertaken new research to study nonprofits that have been able to avoid, or break, the vicious cycle and, in so doing, achieve breakthrough successes with fundraising. Prior to the release of the report in early 2016, CompassPoint is able to share some illuminating preliminary insights in advance that will no doubt be of interest to fundraisers eager to achieve similar outcomes in their own organizations.
The new study employs positive-deviance analysis, also called bright-spotting. Bright-spotting focuses on identifying organizations that have attained better results than their peers by using available resources in better ways. The goal is to provide nonprofit leaders with case studies that are replicable across a broad range of nonprofits, says Marla Cornelius, MNA, Senior Project Director at CompassPoint. “We wanted to find case studies that are not just interesting, but that are practical,” she explained.
CompassPoint began by inviting nonprofits to nominate social justice and social change organizations with budgets of between $500,000 and $5 million that had experienced significant sustained growth over the past several years. From the 100 organizations nominated, CompassPoint selected 12 on which to focus. At each of the 12 organizations, CompassPoint then conducted five in-depth interviews, one each with the executive director, the development director, a program director, a board member, and a donor. The goal was to identify how each organization’s successful fundraising program began, what its strategies and results were, and what lessons could be extrapolated from their experience.
“The largest source of funding for many small organizations, particularly social justice organizations, has traditionally been foundations and government grants,” Cornelius explains. “These bright spots are different in that they’ve been able to raise significant funds from individuals in their communities.”
Cornelius says that despited the focus on organizations of a certain size and mission, nonprofits of all kinds will find something of value in the results, whether related to culture or infrastructure or fundraising practice. “There will be important lessons here,” she promises. “Everyone will pick up something of value.”