Oh, And Bring Your Rolodex…

By Phil Gérard

First of all, I would like to  explain to my younger fundraiser friends what a Rolodex is. According to Wikipedia it is a ‘rotating file device used to store business contact information’. It’s what us oldies used before LinkedIn!

Now that we have the definition out-of-the-way – this post is about something that seems logical but unfortunately still seems to occur a lot. At least I hear about it from fundraisers in my network every now and then: Organizations expecting from prospective employees that they would bring their donors with them to the new job.

It seems that everyone wants to be in the game of major gifts today. The AFP breakfast seminars on major gift strategies always sell out. At first glance this seems very positive and encouraging, a sign that the charitable sector is doing well and that charities are building a pipeline and are moving their donors up on the giving pyramid. I think that some organizations though are hoping for the magic pill in these workshops. ‘If the big shops are so good at major gifts maybe we just need to hire a hotshot fundraiser (no matter the cost) and they will create the same magic here. Maybe they will bring their contacts with them.’

I am not knocking small shops here at all nor am I generalizing. There are small shops with very robust major gift programs that have been built up and nurtured over the years. Some shops, however, with ambitious but unrealistic board members or leadership can set up fundraisers for failure. So next time you contemplate leaving your position with a well-run, well-resourced and well-oiled fundraising machine be sure to ask  the hiring manager some tough questions around expectations, annual fundraising targets, their existing donor pipeline, the largest gifts received and so on.

And be very careful when you are being asked to bring your contacts with you and solicit them for a major gift. This should never be expected of you. Sure, when we hire fundraisers we want them to be good networkers, well-connected and knowledgeable of the local market. However, expecting that a new fundraiser would bring a contact list to the new job and ask donors to now consider giving to the organization you just joined is not part of fundraising best practices – to say the least. Fundraisers should stay away from that and should not be put in that position by a new employer. We build relationships with donors for the organization we work for not for ourselves.

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