The absence of fundraising skills on trustee boards: are chief executives contributing to the problem

Simon Callaghan, director of fundraising appointments at Peridot Partners, talks about the absence of fundraising skills on trustee boards.

The need for fundraising experience and strategic fundraising insight on trustee boards has never been more important. Considering the changing fundraising regulations, as well as the ongoing need for charities to grow their income to deliver more great work, having the right skills and knowledge at board level is crucial not only for survival, but for sustainable growth.

Few would disagree that bringing fundraisers onto boards has benefits.  It can help charity boards embed an informed and innovative fundraising strategy, manage risk and ensure compliance, and help fundraisers to develop their strategic skills and board relations experience. It’s also a fantastic volunteering opportunity for fundraisers to get involved with a different cause and be a part of the charity sector. It stretches their perspectives and helps them to generate new ideas.

At Peridot Partners we regularly work with non-profit organisations to recruit trustees with specific skills. This includes finding people with experience of social care, digital, legal, finance, HR, education, operations, marketing and communications, as well as fundraising. Invariably, the first question prospective candidates in employment (those with the most currency) ask is ‘what is the time commitment?’ Of all the disciplines we recruit, it’s the professional fundraisers who have the biggest challenge persuading their chief executive to support them in volunteering as a trustee.

Why is that?

I know many fundraising directors who have gained a significant amount from joining the board of another charity, not least through opening networks that are beneficial to their paid role. These networks are otherwise very hard to access, and a trustee role can open doors. Having experience on ‘another side of the fence’ is also a healthy experience, bringing an enhanced strategic perspective to improve working relationships with their own board and new ideas. Of course, there is a risk of a conflict of interest, particularly around similar funders, but this is rarely an issue if the trusteeship is in a different field.

In a survey we ran with the Institute of Fundraising, 88% of respondents said that being a trustee adds skills and experience which can help a fundraiser progress in their career, with many respondents commenting that volunteering has benefited their existing employer.

There is a significant and growing need for more professional fundraising experience on charity boards. To enable the sector to maximise its income generating potential we urge chief executives to avoid looking for reasons why a fundraiser can’t have the time away from a full-time role, and instead look to the benefits to their own charity when their fundraisers are involved at board level with other organisations.

 

Peridot Partners recruit people for leadership roles, both executive and non-executive. We also help boards of trustees / non-executive directors to become more effective by undertaking diagnostic reviews and then delivering modern solutions such as fresh induction and development programmes. If you’re interested in recruiting specific skills to your board, or would like a discussion on how we might be able to work with you to improve board performance, please contact us at contact@peridotpartners.co.uk

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