Fund Times

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To Hire or Contract? That Is the Question March 6, 2012

Filed under: capacity,nonprofit leadership,strategic fundraising — fundtimes @ 2:26 pm

If you’re like most nonprofit leaders, you are truly passionate about the work that you do. You wholeheartedly believe in your organization’s mission.  You are even committed to ensuring that your nonprofit is able to meet the various needs of its constituency, both now and in the long run.  If only you didn’t have to fundraise. 

Don’t worry; you’re not alone.  According to the national study, Ready to Lead?: Next Generation Leaders Speak Out, the number one reason that emerging professionals gave for not wanting to become an executive director is having to fundraise.  When respondents were asked to expound on this, the fear of fundraising was not about an unwillingness to raise money per se.  Rather, it was the idea that they wouldn’t be successful in raising much-needed funds.

If you’re among this group of nonprofit leaders, what should you do?  Does it make sense to hire someone full-time to oversee the organization’s fundraising duties or contract with a consultant in the short-term?  While it’s true that you’ll never be free of the wonderful world of fundraising since you are your nonprofit’s main spokesperson, the answer to this question depends on a variety of factors.  Below are a few tips to consider in how best to pass the proverbial buck (see what I just did there?):

  • Assess Overall Need.  Before you make any sudden moves, first consider what you hope to achieve by increasing your fundraising capacity.  Do you need help in mapping out your fundraising activities for the year or do you want to hand off the majority of fundraising responsibilities to another person?  If you hire a full-time staff member, this person will primarily oversee and implement your organization’s fundraising activities; keeping you abreast of benchmarks of course.  On the other hand, if you decide to hire a consultant, he or she can provide guidance on best practice fundraising strategies and even strengthen (or create) fundraising tools for you to use (e.g., grant proposal templates, strengthen content on online donation page, etc.).
  • Review Organizational Budget.  Another indicator to consider is your organizational budget.  Is your nonprofit ready to support another full-time staff member complete with competitive benefits?  According to data from Professionals for Nonprofits’ 2010 Salary Survey, the average salary range for a development director in Washington, D.C. is $70,000-$80,000 per year ($40,000-$45,000 for a development associate).  If you have room in your budget to hire another person, go for it (our economy needs you for goodness sake).  If not, then you might consider contracting with a fundraising consultant for a short period of time to help you map out and/or implement some key fundraising activities to alleviate the burden.

Now it’s your turn.  Have you ever contemplated hiring a full-time development person versus a fundraising consultant?  What did you ultimately do and why?


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