Allow me to explain.
Sallie D. wrote to say she might be leaving her job with a Catholic charity and going with a secular charity instead.
Well, she and I are old friends, so she alluded unblushingly to what she suspected was the real reason: "Because I don't pee like Jesus." I.e., I'm not a man. I.e., Catholics lean a little patriarchal. I.e., I'll never be the boss here; it will always be some guy.
Hardly a stunning revelation. And it's not just Catholics. The whole fundraising profession has a serious problem, I believe.
I look out at my workshop audiences.
They are 80-90% female.
And I bet 75% of them report to a male.
Who often second-guesses everything. Leading, in the poor fundraiser, to a crash of confidence, morbid self-doubt, and feelings of worthlessness. Talk about your toxic workplace.
What's the #1 complaint I hear at workshops? Just this: "I'm sure you're right. But my boss won't let me."
The latest incident was just a few weeks ago, in Australia. My workshop ended. A female director of development approached. She said, "My headmaster won't sign any letter I write that includes a P.S. He believes they're undignified."
Reaction #1: Well, I guess he doesn't know about the eye motion studies which reveal that the P.S. is some of the most valuable real estate in a direct mail appeal and unusually good at boosting response rates, when used well.
Reaction #2: Jerk.
I used to commiserate with fundraisers who'd experienced this form of workplace discrimination. I would say, "It's so sad."
But after hearing the same complaint dozens of times, I have to ask, "Why does your boss think you're incompetent?"
Because that's what behind the second-guessing, after all. Your boss is telling you loud and clear that he does not trust your judgment and expertise.
And you, Ms. Fundraiser, need to call him on this patronizing attitude. Or start tuning up your resume.
The following is best practice, from a personnel point of view:
The head of fundraising (the director of development, or advancement, or whatever you choose to call the position) should have sole and final approval on every donor communication, whether it's an appeal, a newsletter, the donor portion of the website, the annual report to donors, emailed solicitations, fundraising event invitations ... etc.
After all, the fundraising position is judged by results.
No one -- no executive director, no board chair, no committee member -- should be allowed to second-guess the chief fundraiser's opinion.
It's her responsibility. It's her job. It's her neck.
Any other approach is self-indulgent crap. Have I made myself absolutely clear?Takeaway >>>>
No headmaster, no president, no CEO, no dean, no executive director, no board chair, no committee member is born with an innate understanding of what will be effective in fundraising communications. I had to read 150 books and survive 15 years of real-world experience as a writer before I could confidently say, "Yup. I'm pretty sure this will work." I firmly believe that many charities could immediately raise twice as much money if the ridicule-ready know-nothings at the top of the typically mindless approval process would simply get out of the fundraiser's way, and let her do her job as best she's able, using her experience and training.