Fundraisers need better preparation, research

Bob Hartsook
Bob Hartsook

Bob Hartsook

Who do high-net-worth individuals consult with when they think about giving?

Contrary to what we might have guessed, it is not their lawyer, accountant or trust officer, according to a study by Charlotte-based Bank of America.

Shared wisdom would say wealthy individuals would consult with a peer, but that answer was second on the list.

The first person high-net-worth individuals consult with when thinking about giving is the fundraiser or staff of the organization that is going to get the gift.

Read that again: The fundraiser is the critical player in closing the gift.

Certainly, I knew this instinctively after watching it happen repeatedly over 36 years in the field.

But now this gut feeling and experiential knowledge are validated through research that can be used to improve the field.

Professional fundraisers need better preparation and research, and the fundraising field needs a reliable tool to measure the competency of fundraisers so employers can
know they are hiring skilled, talented professionals.

The field also needs more and better research on fundraising so those who practice this “profession” have something other than great stories on which to base their work.

And the field needs a delivery system that will give practitioners the information they need to be more effective.

For too many years, the fundraising profession has survived on storytelling, default appointments and apprenticeships.

Every now and then, we might come across a study, say, “Gee whiz,” and go on with business as usual.

But it is a different day.

Fundraisers, take note: Many changes are on the horizon for our profession.  To start, I challenge you to take the research and use it in your work.

Because, as the research indicates, when we elevate fundraisers, we elevate the profession and philanthropy.

Bob Hartsook is chairman and CEO of Hartsook Companies, a fundraising consulting firm in Wrightsville Beach, N.C. He has endowed a chair at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University that will focus on preparation and research for fundraising.

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