Part 2: What's to blame for the leadership gap in fundraising?

August 9, 2017

Last week, in Part One of this two-part series, I wrote about some of the attributes that make for great fundraising leadership – and I wondered....


Why is our sector facing a shortage of great leaders?


This week, I look at the leadership gap, and what's holding our sector back – here are three reasons we aren’t seeing more strong leaders stepping forward to helm our organizations.


Systemic barriers in the non-profit sector


Have you read the new study Race to Lead: Confronting the Racial Leadership Gap?


If not, go, download it now! I’ll wait right here for you.


In the U.S., the percentage of people of color in nonprofit executive director roles has remained under 20% for the past decade (don’t feel too self-righteous, Canada and beyond – I assure you, we all have a similar problem).


The study found that people of colour are just as qualified as their white counterparts, and want to be the CEOs of nonprofit organizations (in fact, more so than white respondents).


The lack of people of color in top leadership roles is a serious structural problem for the nonprofit sector. We are missing out on a massive pool of talent because of systemic barriers and implicit bias.


We need to stop assuming there are not enough qualified people of color candidates, and shift the focus to changing the assumptions and structures that guide decision-makers.


A bad case of short-termism


An obsessive focus on short term goals is killing effective fundraising.


This new report from Rogare in the UK looked at the barriers to implementing relationship fundraising, and discovered that a lack of support at senior levels is resulting in a short term, transactional approach to fundraising.


According to Rogare, much of this is driven by the limited understanding of fundraising among trustees and board members – and fundraising’s lack of status and representation at senior levels make it hard to provide this information.


When our potential fundraising leaders see this lack of support and short-termism at senior levels, are they being disuaded from taking the leap into a leadership role?  


Unrealistic goals


In the same vein as short-termism, boards and senior leaders who don’t have a strong understanding of fundraising are pushing for increasingly unrealistic fundraising goals.


Facing unattainable and ever increasing fundraising goals year after year is resulting in high turnover of fundraisers and fundraising leaders, and an increasing rate of burnout.


The solution here, as with the other challenges above, is working to shift the perspective of those already in leadership positions – our board members and senior leaders.


What do you think – how do we influence our boards and senior leaders, and change the conversation about fundraising and leadership? Do you aspire to be a nonprofit leader – if so, what are the barriers you're facing, and what opportunities are available to you?

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