Before coming over to the non-profit sector I worked at IBM and GE, two of the biggest businesses around. In Big Business, the people who hold the reins – the center of energy and talent – are people who bring in money: the sales guys, the CEO, the big account managers. That’s where everyone’s bread is buttered, so it’s where the action is.
Surprising, then, how in the nonprofit sector everyone wants to be on the money-spending side of the equation (the “Program” side), and raising capital (a.k.a. fundraising) is mostly seen as a necessary evil. Need proof? Check out the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s job page today: 354 “fund raising” [sic] jobs; 102 “Administrative” and 80 “Program.”
The sector is doing itself a major disservice. Raising money is a barometer of how effective you are at convincing the the most powerful, influential people in your orbit (whether you raise big gifts or have a retail strategy) to care about your mission and support it. It’s taken as a given that the Obama Campaign’s ability to inspire people and raise money from them is a testament to the power of their message. When was the last time you heard similar talk about a nonprofit that’s good at raising money? We rarely if ever think about things like “Revenues” in a really strategic way.
As the meltdown continues in the banking sector, the nonprofit sector in New York (let alone city and state government) runs the risk of a major downturn in funds raised. Hopefully we can all roll up our sleeves and start to think differently about Revenues when the music starts again.