Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Fundraising: the Chamber’s Nonprofit Roundtable Tackles Big Questions

In addition to welcoming the Oakland Chamber’s new Membership Director and Roundtable Liaison Nikki Mendez, the April Nonprofit Roundtable launched into an enthusiastic conversation based on the recent national study, UnderDeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising. With more than 10,000 nonprofit organizations serving Alameda County alone, the study provides significant information for the entire community.

To begin, Steve Lew, Project Director for CompassPoint (, the Bay Area nonprofit that serves other nonprofits with classes, workshops, studies and consultations, introduced the study and the results.

UnderDeveloped ( is a joint project that CompassPoint undertook with the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund to examine the status of fundraising in the nonprofit sector. CompassPoint surveyed approximately 2,700 Executive Directors and Senior Development Officers and compiled the results.

According to CompassPoint, “With startling clarity, the national study reveals that many nonprofit organizations are stuck in a vicious cycle that threatens their ability to raise the resources they need to succeed.” The study succinctly reveals the instability of the role of the Development Director throughout the sector and in organizations of all sizes.

Key findings were divided into three specific areas: 1) Revolving Door – high turnover and long vacancies in the Development Director position; 2) Help Wanted – lack of qualified candidates, performance issues and a lack of basic fundraising skills among lead development staff; and 3) Organizational Structure – lack of capacity, systems and culture to support fundraising success. The statistics are alarming:

·         Vacancy length in the chief development position of six months on average, with nearly half even longer;

·         50% of Development Directors anticipate leaving their current jobs in two years or less;

·         50% of Executive Directors said their last search didn’t produce enough candidates with the right mix of skills and experience;

·         25% of Executive Directors fired their last Development Director;

·         25% of Executive Directors said their Development Directors have no experience or are novice at current and prospective donor research and at securing gifts;

·         23% of the organizations have no fundraising plan in place; 21% have no fundraising database;

·         75% of Board Member engagement is insufficient; and

·         Less than half of Development Directors say they have a strong relationship with their Executive Director.

However, the study goes further by providing several “calls to action” to strengthen fundraising within an organization and the sector as a whole:


·         Embrace fund development at the organization, or, as consultant Simone P. Joyaux states, create a “Culture of Philanthropy;”

·         Elevate the field of fundraising;

·         Strengthen and diversify the talent pool (like Executive Directors, Development Directors are predominantly over 40, female, and white);

·         Train Boards of Directors differently (again creating a Culture of Philanthropy);

·         Set realistic development goals; and

·         Share accountability for fundraising results (the Development Director’s success is inextricably linked to staff, Executive Director and Board success).

Discussing the study with Lew and each other led to an even broader conversation on the status of the Oakland area’s nonprofit sector. This conversation enabled those representing organizations of all sizes to ask questions, posit answers, complain, share ideas and support each other. The enthusiasm and diligence of those in attendance created a marvelous atmosphere that was only limited by time constraints.

Roundtable Co-chairs Âna-Marie Jones, Executive Director of CARD ( and Jerry Metzker, Development & Marketing Manager of Biotech Partners ( invite those in and outside of the nonprofit sector to join us as we continue this critical conversation.


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The next Oakland Chamber Non-Profit Roundtable meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 21, 2013, from 2:30-4:30pm in the Chamber Boardroom. All Chamber members and non-profit organizations interested in networking are welcome.Stay tuned for more details!

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