Who Gives?
January 27, 2010 9:03 AM   Subscribe

I'm interested in how fund-raising for non-profits works. How do I find out more?

I'm interested in groups that solicit donations and volunteers for charitable causes. Specifically, I'd like to know how they generally go about it and how they determine what is and isn't working well.

A couple of questions:

~ Is there a specialist or position at a non-profit who is in charge of analyzing the success of their fund-raising and volunteer recruitment? If so, what would that person's title be?

~ Are there any articles, books, or blogs that talk about what works and what doesn't when it comes to charity, in either qualitative or quantitative ways?

~ Do you or anyone you know work in this area? If so, what is it like and do you think someone with a background in the psychology of charity/altruism would be helpful?
posted by shaun uh to Work & Money (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
California Association of Nonprofits has a lot of great resources. Nolo Press has some great titles that would help, as well. If you're in DC or NY, visit the Foundation Center library...the librarians will definitely point you to the right resources!
posted by aquafortis at 9:10 AM on January 27, 2010


A lot of this depends on the nature of the non-profit -- what they do, how big they are, etc.

In particular:

"Is there a specialist or position at a non-profit who is in charge of analyzing the success of their fund-raising and volunteer recruitment? If so, what would that person's title be?"

In the case of the non-profit I work with (a theater company), that person would be the "development director". They handle the fundraising and audience-building tasks, by applying for grants, approaching specific groups who may be interested in a particular show we do, etc.

However, my particular non-profit is also extremely small, and as such we do not HAVE a development director, which means our artistic director (and 50% of the staff) has to try handling that angle as well as also plotting the artistic course of the season. In other words -- he should be concentrating on artistic choices like "I'd love to do a season where we compare ancient Greek plays to contemporary works", but he is forced to also concentrate on things like "what's the deadline for that city arts grant and do we have the budget put together properly?" And the literary manager (me, the other 50% of the staff) has to proofread grant applications instead of concentrating solely on "well, this play here is a lot like LYSISTRATA, so that'd work well with the season" the way I'm supposed to do.

So there are such persons, but not every non-profit has them -- the smaller the group, the less likely they have one.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:23 AM on January 27, 2010


Is there a specialist or position at a non-profit who is in charge of analyzing the success of their fund-raising and volunteer recruitment? If so, what would that person's title be?


Depends on the organization, how big they are, how their budget works, etc. A lot of times the person in charge of volunteers will be known as ‘volunteer administrator’ or some such variation. It’s an entire profession – for Minnesota, check out MAVA –Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration
posted by Think_Long at 9:25 AM on January 27, 2010


A good friend of mine runs a very small NPO that's putting together a preschool in Kenya. They have a few regular fundraising events (an annual arts & crafts auction, etc) and things like t-shirts and calendars for sale, and there's a fairly aggressive solicitation process to get people to become scheduled donors, etc., a newsletter to remind people to give, etc. The rest is sort of seat-of-the-pants, try to put together a charity concert, speak at various churches, etc. She works full-time and all of it is fundraising.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:26 AM on January 27, 2010


You are talking about development. This is the department that handles fundraising at any non-profit of size and length of existence.


~ Is there a specialist or position at a non-profit who is in charge of analyzing the success of their fund-raising and volunteer recruitment? If so, what would that person's title be?


At my medium size non-profit, we have a Development Director, a couple of development associates (they research and write grants), and managers for different sectors of fundraising (like corporate, foundation, or government).

~ Are there any articles, books, or blogs that talk about what works and what doesn't when it comes to charity, in either qualitative or quantitative ways?


Yes, they are tons of fundraising books. People get degrees in Development. There are classes on writing grants. There is even a Fundraising for Dummies.

~ Do you or anyone you know work in this area? If so, what is it like and do you think someone with a background in the psychology of charity/altruism would be helpful?


I have found that most people in the development community are rather conservative and insular (in practice, not politics). So it would seem unlikely to me that they'd try on someone with that background; however, maybe at a really big national organization, like a Red Cross or JCCA, would they try something like that.
posted by RajahKing at 9:35 AM on January 27, 2010


Following up on EmpressCallipygos, I work at a fairly large non-profit in development. And there are several divisions- major donors, foundations & corporations, planned giving, and marketing (which is all the direct mail, telemarketing, and web giving). Each of these has its own director that is largely in charge of the analysis of the performance of their department. In my case, it's a team effort... everyone in my area contributes to the year-end analysis of what did and didn't work, and in strategizing for the next fiscal year. Then the director of my departmnt collaborates with the overall director of development to prioritize our goals.

If so, what is it like and do you think someone with a background in the psychology of charity/altruism would be helpful?

Development offices are made up of people from various backgrounds. Although I think many people end up in the field because they want to work for specific causes or organizations. I have a Bs in Psychology and an MSSW, and I ended up in development because there was an entry level position at an organization that I adored. And after ten years, I'm pretty happy. The key to development is to find your niche. I don't like talking to donors. So I do lots of data-management and research.

I think your background would be a good fit. But if you have no development experience, then you would still be looking at entry level positions, in most cases, if you want to enter the field. I had a masters in a related field, and intern experience in fundraising, and I still started out as an administrative assistant.
posted by kimdog at 9:43 AM on January 27, 2010


Is there a specialist or position at a non-profit who is in charge of analyzing the success of their fund-raising and volunteer recruitment? If so, what would that person's title be?

Yeah, Development Director, generally. But most CEO's of NP's spend a lot of time in this realm as well.

Are there any articles, books, or blogs that talk about what works and what doesn't when it comes to charity, in either qualitative or quantitative ways?


There are tons and only a few are helpful - mostly because what development practices work will vary greatly depending what the org is and where it is. At my NP, the Development Dept. swears by Donor Centered Fundraising, by Penelope Burk.

Do you or anyone you know work in this area? If so, what is it like and do you think someone with a background in the psychology of charity/altruism would be helpful?


People in development have all sorts of backgrounds, and you could probably find a niche in the development world where your skills would be useful.

What is it like? Well, that really depends on the type and size of your org. Generally, it doesn't pay great, it's difficult and taxing, generally thankless and often very stressful and disheartening. On the other hand, you get to raise money for a cause you care about - so there's the whole fulfillment thing or whatever.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:42 AM on January 27, 2010


I work at a small historic movie theatre that's run by a non-profit. I'm what people above are describing as a "development associate"; I report to our development director, I do some research and grant application, assist with our membership program, and do a lot of event planning and organizing for our big annual fundraising events.

But because our organization is so small (entire admin staff is 9 people, and we serve hundreds of thousands a year with first-run movies, classics, concerts, community events, educational and school programming), everybody ends up doing a little of everything. If you were exploring a degree program in development, event coordination wouldn't be the focus of a lot of your time. It's probably where I spend 60% of my hours. I'm the IT department. I'm doing cost analysis on equpiment purchase, which is really more suited to the operations end of the business. You'll find in nonprofits that there's a lot of ... cross-pollination. Particularly in arts organizations and educational foundations, staffs are small and are expected to do a lot.

I fell into the job, without any design or intention on my part. Nonprofit work, overall? Hm. It is incredibly stressful — your responsibilities expand to fill any time you may have. The pay's garbage. You have to work with a board of directors who are volunteers, which in practical terms means you have to report to, and execute the wishes of, a group of wealthy and powerful people who have no idea how your organization is actually run. I have only been here about 2 years, but 18 months ago I stopped using a to-do list. Honestly. Because every day when I came in there was another whole list of things that had to be done immediately. There's no time for long-range strategic planning, and there's no money to fix what you know are the holes in your plans as they currently exist. It is harrowing. But I love it with all my heart. I don't think I'd be comfortable in a for-profit environment; philosophically there's something cleaner about just asking people for money, and allowing them to decide whether or not to give it to you. And in return you supply something that a for-profit wouldn't or couldn't. My theatre couldn't support itself in private, for-profit terms. It's also a historical building and a local and national treasure, so I get to go home at night truly believing I have contributed both to joy in the lives of individuals in my community and to the continued prosperity of a marvelous work of functioning art. That more than outweighs the stress.
posted by penduluum at 11:12 AM on January 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


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