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Tasks for the new CEO of the Institute of Fundraising

Joe Saxton lays out five key things that the soon to be appointed CEO of the Institute of Fundraising should prioritise as they navigate rough waters and begin to map out the next decade.

Joe Saxton

There will be a new permanent CEO of the Institute of Fundraising once the recruitment process is complete. They will face a basket of challenges. Fundraising, and the wider charity sector, has had a difficult decade (to put it mildly). Yet all too often in my view, the Institute has not taken the lead when it should have done. It dragged its feet on changing the regulatory structure to put the public first. It didn’t create a culture where all fundraisers could feel safe and respected. It has failed to adapt to the way that the world of fundraising and charities are changing. And perhaps above all, it has failed to give inspiration and ideas that show fundraising can flourish, when it has been under assault from all sides. So, the Institute needs a new strategy. Here are five things that I think the new CEO should prioritise.

Make fundraising safe for everyone

Fundraising has an environment which is a fertile breeding ground for harassment and oppression: a raft of junior female fundraisers and senior male fundraisers. It’s easy to dismiss this as a stereotype, but in too many organisations it’s still the norm. Fundraising needs to change to become more of a meritocracy, but also to take proactive steps to stop a culture where sexual harassment can so easily flourish. I have no doubt things are better since I started in fundraising over 30 years ago – but they still have a long long way to go. The ongoing news about the IoF’s recent investigation into cases of sexual harassment only reinforces how important it is to get this right.

Bring diversity to the role of IoF Chair

One of the dangers of diversity is that it’s all too easy to focus on race and gender. The role of the Chair of the Institute is incredibly important. That person is the role model for fundraisers to look up to. Yet only one kind of person appears to fill that post – directors of fundraising from house-hold name charities: Macmillan, NSPCC, Cancer Research UK, British Heart Foundation, Save the Children, Red Cross and a few more. Ironically because the holders have been men and women, and not all white, it’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security on diversity. But being a director of fundraising at a large charity gives people a very distinct and narrow view of the fundraising world – and that cannot be helpful.

Don’t get misled by the Chartered Institute of Fundraising

There is no doubt that the Institute has spent a lot of time and energy becoming Chartered. It is a significant badge of achievement. However, it makes no impact on public perceptions. nfpSynergy research with the public showed that only 4% of people strongly agreed that they could explain a Chartered organisation to a friend, and most didn’t know what it really meant. Sadly, the Institute seems to believe its own propaganda and somehow thinks being Chartered will solve all the public perception problems of fundraising. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Institute needs to make changing public perceptions at the heart of its work going forward.

Make the Institute about income generation not fundraising

According to NCVO, donations and purchasing by individuals totals about 40% of all income generated for charities. Our prediction at nfpSynergy is that this percentage will decline over the next 20 years (see below for more details on this). The danger is that the Institute has painted itself into a corner by only being about fundraising, and not about income generation. This isn’t just because fundraising is going to shrink, but also because charities want to manage and maximize all their income. Fundraising is just a portion of that. When the Directors of Comms, of Finance, of HR, of IT manage all that their organisations do in those areas, its unhelpful to have a Director of Fundraising who has the skills and mandate to only manage a portion of total income.

Give inspiration that fundraising has a buoyant future

There is hardly any part of fundraising that hasn’t been given a mauling in the last decade. Individual fundraising, and especially telephone fundraising has been battered by GDPR. Street and door to door fundraising has been battered by tighter regulation. Events, retails, and tin-rattling have been battered by Covid. While online purchases have taken off in the retail sector, they are sluggish in the charity world. There are more problems on the horizon; cash is dying, (pushed on by Covid), and cheques are ahead in the queue for the knacker’s yard. However, both still remain important channels of income for some charities.

The Institute needs to identify a path through these rocky waters. It needs to give fundraisers inspiration and optimism that as some forms of fundraising decline, others will emerge. It needs to get together the best and brightest from the fundraising world to map out the next decade or more. Above all, it needs to give charities the confidence that fundraising will continue to be a rocket fuel that makes charities able to change the world.



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