Philanthropy Is a Leadership Issue | npENGAGE

Philanthropy Is a Leadership Issue

By on Jun 28, 2016


One of the things I love most about fundraising is that it is completely dependent on leadership.

In an ideal world..

  • Leaders cast vision that grabs the attention of donors
  • Donors fund work that allows nonprofits to employ specialists
  • Leaders work with those specialists to measure how well the mission is being accomplished
  • The board oversees it all, holding the nonprofit’s mission and vision in trust and making sure more people know about it

Unfortunately, this is not a perfect world. In the recent Nonprofit Sector Leadership Report, leaders admitted that most of this isn’t happening at their nonprofits.

Despite evidence that strategic plans make a nonprofit more effective at all levels, including the board level, a startling 49% of nonprofits are operating without one. Even one in five of the largest nonprofits—those with over $5 million in revenue—reported not having a strategic plan.

And the situation is even worse. Sixty-two percent of the leaders claiming to have a strategic plan admit that the plan does not include any sustainable fundraising plan. Sixty-two percent! How can you call a plan “strategic” if you neglect to account for revenue?

It seems that these leaders are more involved in strategic wishing than strategic planning.

If you are like one of the nonprofit leaders in the study, you will love Philanthropy by the Numbers from Blackbaud’s npEXPERTS. In this volume, you’ll find:

  • Advice for leading
  • Analytical ways to focus on data and outcomes
  • Multiple strategies for getting the word out to various groups
  • New ways to work with funding organizations that could significantly move your mission forward

Please don’t just pass this book to your fundraising staff. Philanthropy is a leadership issue. Whether or not your nonprofit has a written strategic plan, working through each of the articles will help you lead. As you’re reading them, think about your own nonprofit’s diversity, outcomes, advocacy, and giving. Allow those thoughts to help you reflect on your nonprofit’s strategic plan.

It would be nice to have a strategic plan first, then create a fundraising plan to support it. But few of us live in an orderly world. Most of us feel we are “building the bridge as we are walking across it.” As we’re working on strategy, we bump into costs and try to figure out ways to cover those costs with fundraising. And as we’re planning ways to fundraise, we bump into the need for clearer outcomes so donors will see the direct impact of their giving. That naturally leads us to sharpening our strategic plan.

So use the new npEXPERTS book to help fine-tune both plans. And be sure to take notes. In fact, before you start reading, grab a legal pad and draw a line down the center. At the top of left said, write “Strategic Direction”; at the top of the right side, write “Fundraising Plan.”

As you are able to read a section of the book, jot down actionable notes and ideas in the appropriate column. Let these notes become a task list that you use to shape the rest of you nonprofit’s year.

Get that legal pad and get ready to take your philanthropy to a whole new level.



Concord Leadership founder Marc A. Pitman is the author of “Ask Without Fear!,” the executive director of, and an Advisory Panel member of Rogare, a prestigious international fundraising think tank.

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