Three years ago, I endowed the only Chair in Fundraising in the world at Indiana University. I did this because then Executive Director of the Philanthropy Center, Gene Tempel, wanted to bring attention to fundraising.
Well, he got my attention!
The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Holly Hall wrote an article about the announcement of the newly-endowed Chair and the first chair-holder, Adrian Sargeant. In it, she quoted me as saying that I did it because “50% of fundraisers in America weren’t worth crap.” Shortly after that, a senior executive of the Kellogg Foundation announced at a national American Humanics meeting in Kansas City that I had grossly overestimated their competency.
Since making that gift, you cannot believe the how many philanthropists, corporate staff and foundation leadership have agreed with me. That, in and of itself, is not a reason to change fundraising education.
However, the fact that philanthropy barely increases year after year is not because there are few good nonprofits or generous philanthropists. It is because the persons who serve as the middle men and women for philanthropy are, many time, ill-equipped to do a good job for either.
The Bank of America studies on high net worth giving reveal how important the fundraiser is in the solicitation of the 70% of ALL FUNDS that come from 3% of Americans. In every study, fundraisers always rank in the top levels of influence.
The questionable preparation of fundraisers isn’t their fault. Fundraising education is not generally valued by the philanthropy and nonprofit management programs in the country. Many of the most recognized programs do not even require a fundraising course for the completion of degrees. To the extent they do, some programs evaluate their graduates based on whether their “butt is in the seat” at the time of graduation. Assuming the curriculum is strong, there is frequently little evaluation of acquisition of content by the graduates. Some of the most prestigious fundraising certificates given by major universities require no demonstration of competency.
That approach went unchallenged until the creation of the Kinetic Institutes for Fundraising. The Institute’s leadership is developing competency-based curriculum.
Is this the perfect and only answer? Will it fully address and change fundraising education?
No. But it is raising the right questions!