Christian Aid have recently caused a flurry of comment in my little world by announcing a new organisational structure that seems to abolish the fundraising function. (You can read the original article here and Fundraising Detective’s comments here)
So OK, I’m biased. As a fundraising director I’m hardly likely to enthuse about a trend that might make the likes of me an endangered species (maybe that’s an idea for a WWF campaign, “adopt a fundraiser”). But it did prompt for me the wider question of what difference organisational structures make to the success of a charity.
Although rumours that I’ve worked for every charity in the UK are unfounded, I have been around a bit. In the whistle-stop tour that constitutes my charity career, I’ve experienced a range of different approaches to structuring non-profits. There are some perennial issues, should Fundraising and Communications be part of one department or should they be separate? Should Finance and IT be together or separate? What to do with Campaigns? And so on.
Every organisation I’ve worked for has bemoaned the existence of “silos” in the charity. There’s been lots of examples of this and many, many occasions where organisational effectiveness would have been greatly improved if only someone in Team A had thought to talk to Team B next door before approaching a donor or talking to a minister. Often the suggested solution to such issues is to create a different structure for the charity. Much time and energy is taken up with the resultant re-organisations.
In my experience, this is usually wasted effort. I don’t actually think there is a right or wrong structure for any given type of charity, or that charities must have particular roles, even directors of fundraising. charity: water for example, seem to do just fine without any obvious fundraising head.
What is important is the culture of the organisation and the relationships between the people in it. It doesn’t matter if fundraising and communications, despite their close cross-over, report to different people if you can’t put a cigarette paper between the two of them on the key issues, and this sense of close collaboration is echoed throughout both teams. If fundraising is completely embedded in the culture like it clearly is at charity: water, you don’t necessarily need a fundraising department.
Of course I am not saying that most charities can do away with a fundraising function. What would I do?
Tobin Aldrich, Director of Fundraising, WWF