Management, Management & leadership, Fundraising

Managing fundraisers: A blessing or a curse?

Managing fundraisers is tricky. Mike Bartlett gives some guidance on this key area.

Managing fundraisers

The charity sector attracts some wonderful people, full of intent, purpose and commitment. Dedicated professionals working long hours for little reward to fulfil the dreams of long gone aspirational founders and dreamers, armed with personal values that other sectors would give their right arm for. It doesn’t, however, attract great managers. Of course there are terrible managers across all sectors, but somehow we assume that in a ‘caring’ sector we would naturally have thoughtful, decent, thorough and conscientious managers. In my experience of 16 years working for charities of very different sizes this is often not the case.

Perhaps it is because of these assumptions that we under train managers. Perhaps it is because we value those dedicated to the cause above those with technical knowhow. It could be that flat structures in charities make it difficult to manage or that we promote people who have simply hung around the longest. It may also be the nature of the beast that charities attract passionate, opinionated people less inclined to follow traditional management hierarchy and we are all the better for it. Certainly the extrovert nature of most fundraisers can mean managers spend a lot of time listening and not a lot of time directing or managing the fundraising of their teams.



Managers are too nice

One of the most common failings I have seen is that fundraising managers are too nice. There, I’ve said it. I’ve seen it many times and have also been at fault on several occasions. When I look back at previous roles and think what would I have done differently I get the same answer; I was too nice. I didn’t deal with conflict quick enough, I didn’t manage poor performance effectively, I sat on the fence in disputes between fundraisers and I didn’t stand up the CEO and the Board when I needed to. In short, I was too soft.


A committed team

In a way that is how I managed success. My teams liked me, respected me and knew that I had their interests at heart. This meant a committed team, bar one or two. However, when I moved on the feedback I received was “I just wish you had been harder on (insert name)”, “you should have pushed us harder on our figures.” The fact is, it is easy to be nice, to get along with your team, which is all well and good when the money is pouring in the door and that certainly isn’t happening to most of us. It isn’t ok to be Mr/Mrs Nice when it isn’t raining donations.


Stick to your guns

Becoming a firm and fair manager of fundraisers is not about becoming a monster, a kickass Wolf of Wall Street or a super target-obsessed bi-atch. It is about courage, dedication, sticking to your guns, listening, trusting your instinct and above all, tact. I’ve made enough mistakes to improve over the years and I’m very proud to be voted Best Boss at work for the last two years. If you manage fundraisers you have a tough job but you need do it and do it well to best serve your donors and your beneficiaries. To hopefully pick up some tips please come along to my workshop Managing Fundraising Teams (finding the right balance) at Charityfair on Wednesday 25th May at 11:15am.

Book workshops for Charityfair now from only £35 now.