Lauren Fitzmaurice, Development Consultant
Fundraising is a complex executive function when it is done properly and is a blend of art and skill. The skill or practice piece of the work begins with an overall organizational analysis, followed by strategic planning based on the financial position of the non-profit. Development as a profession only began to emerge in the non-profit sector in the 1990’s. Previous to this, fundraising was almost exclusively practiced in higher education and other large settings such as hospitals. Community foundations were forged primarily throughout the last few decades emerging during a great transfer of wealth from the Greatest Generation to the Baby Boomers. Additionally, as block grant funding for non-profits was reduced and outright eliminated, behavioral health managed care was introduced. With the shift in government funding to “the dollar following the individual” ensuing transparency, outcomes and evaluation resulted in the establishment of non-profit Best Practices. Full or partial risk models were developed and imposed on the non-profit sector. Technology provided data and performance reporting abilities previously unimagined. With a managed care model of financial management, it became imperative that non-profits attain the ability to build capacities internally for independent growth. Gone were the days of sustainable, predictable government funding. These variables led to not only the establishment of community foundations as a partial solution to funding but also, the practice of Development in small community based non-profits was born, borrowed directly from higher education. The ethics, training, practices, core values, methods and tools were adopted and embedded within the organizational structure of small and large budgeted entities alike.
Development professionals in higher education are well recognized as an important part of the strategic team charged with the expansion of the institution. Many older educational institutions have huge endowments because resources were directed towards building their fundraising effort. There is a significant amount of planning and integrated strategic work involved in building sustainability for any organization. As non-profits gain institutional knowledge about development, they will correspondingly see their financial base, innovative programming and credibility in the community increase. Most non-profits are building skills in areas of grant-writing; contract development; fee-for-service programming; annual and major gift campaigns; estate planning; special events and social media fundraising. This vital work all begins with board development, making sure the organizations leaders are people of vision, collaboration and financial acumen. With the right leadership in place, institutions can meet compelling needs integral to the common good. The re-distribution of wealth via philanthropy is central to democracy. In fact, other countries learning about how to evolve into a more democratic system send representatives to the United States to learn about philanthropy in order to build a more just country. We should be proud of our philanthropic traditions rooted within our democratic, political and religious ethos.