“Resource Development” vs “Fundraising”

On May 28, I had the pleasure of attending a meeting of Israel’s Fundraisers Forum, organized by “Renaissance Man” Ron Allswang. The topic of the meeting was: “Small Versus Large Donors: What’s the Right Strategy for My Organization?” (I apologize that I am writing a few weeks after it came out; most of my posts recently were my series on Dan Pallotta’s “Ted Talk”).

It was a very interesting discussion lead by Steve Solomon, the newly appointed CEO of Shapells/Darche Noam (who previously held a position at the Jerusalem Foundation), and Joseph Gitler, Chairman and Founder of Leket Israel.

The discussion was very engaging, beginning with Steve asking everyone to write down for themselves: “What is a large donor?” “What is a small donor?” It was fascinating to see how many different answers there were. Which makes sense- the type of organization (and many other factors) determine whether a donor/donation is considered large or small.

Both of the presenters had excellent advice to give. Really both large and small donors are important to organizations; the question is what is the best course for YOUR organization, in terms of strategic planning.

I don’t want to speak much more about the actual presentation, because I don’t want to accidentally give away information that the presenters would not want to be “out there” as public knowledge on the internet (although I will of course send both of them the article for their comments and approval).

However, another very important point that I took away from the meeting (I forgot who said it and I apologize for that!) was a very strong statement that what we do is NOT “Fundraising”, but rather “Resource Development”. I agree that “resource development” is a more accurate term than “fundraising”, because as “fundraisers” (or “resource development professionals”), we are not just trying to raise funds immediately. Of course if that is possible that is wonderful, but usually what fundraisers/resource development professionals work the most on is cultivating relationships … be it with private donors, foundations, federations, government organizations, etc. … we are really “developing resources”. It’s all part of a strategic plan (or should be 🙂 ).

I think that it’s important to make this distinction, because oftentimes there is an expectation (be it from the CEO, board members, etc.) that the “fundraiser”, once hired, will immediately begin “raising funds”. Again, that is the ideal, but that is not usually how it works. It is a process of building and cultivating relationships, which eventually (בע”ה) will end up with donors giving annual gifts, foundations and federations giving grants, etc.

To sum up, I do feel that it is important to refer to the field as “Resource Development” instead of “Fundraising”. It sets a certain tone and shows that the supervisor (CEO, etc.) has an awareness of the process of “fundraising/resource development”.

Thanks to all involved in organizing the Fundraisers Forum meeting, which enabled us to have these lively conversations.

I’d be happy to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Chava Ashkenazi
Jerusalem, Israel

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