For the last seven years, I have been in roles that provide financial or fundraising (sometimes both) support to the third sector. In that time, it’s safe to say I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. But the toughest meetings I have been in are when the head of fundraising and head of finance are placed in the same room. I have often found myself asking if they are working for the same organisation.
Although they ultimately have the same agenda, the fundraisers undertake their duties with a stubborn, passionate enthusiasm, selling their charity to everyone in their path. It is very rare not to encounter their charm and engaging presence at a networking event. They “sell” it to the potential donor; they are tireless.
Then there are their financial counterparts; looking after the economic health of the organisation, seeking the best returns and mitigating risk. But, unlike the fundraisers, they often don’t carry the same enthusiasm and fire to the role, often viewing their work as figures on a balance sheet.
Of course they often work under pressure, carrying out amazing jobs and delivering against tight budgets, but if only they could flip their thinking to that of a fundraiser – “How can I get more money for our beneficiaries?” They have the power to increase donations; but could they push just that little bit further with an open mind and a fire in their belly?
I remember vividly sitting with the financial director of a charity with an income of more than £7m. I practically had to scoop my jaw off the floor when he mentioned how he was simply “too busy” to look at what was going on in the financial market to ensure he was doing the most with their money.
This still a potential problem for many charities as there is a percentage that could leverage better returns and drive down costs, but engaging with fundraisers to achieve this is not something they welcome. Everyone needs to share the same passion and in turn, the same vision – and that goes beyond the mission statement.
What can financial directors do to remedy the situation? Spend some time with the fundraisers, reigniting their passion for the cause. Don’t view the role as being just the “money-out” people; see it as holding the power to add to that bottom line. Every penny saved can deliver greater impact for the beneficiaries. Be proud of that.
Beverley Traynor is head of business development, charities, at Ebury