Succession Planning in Fundraising

Succession Planning in Fundraising

In the sporting world, you will so often see a strong team hold on to its champion players too long and fail at responsible succession planning. It will have its hey-day, and then decline. They have failed to foster their younger talent, because they were so committed to winning, and their champions delivered. They 

This can happen in fundraising committees also.

The remedy lies in maintaining a commitment to renewal, progress and change. There is an African Proverb I love that says: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’

Successful fundraising is simply not possible without a team of dedicated volunteers. This team, like any team, needs renewal in order to be sustainable. This process cannot be held up by one or two, often very competent, people being the ‘star’ of the team.

When you are involved in fundraising over a long time, you develop a lot of knowledge. You have more experience than the eager new faces on the block. It can seem easier to continue to ‘do it yourself’ and just use these new volunteers in a supporting role. This is particularly so when you still enjoy what you do and have a lot to give.

I speak from experience here.

I had been the Vice President (in charge of fundraising) for the P&C at my children’s school for 6 years. Over that time, the revenue from our school fete has nearly quadrupled – from $25K to nearly $100K (of course I don’t take sole credit for that – we had a truly fantastic team) and the revenue from other fundraising activities has doubled. We have become quite the well-oiled fundraising machine.

I still enjoyed it, and I still had a lot to give (even with the arrival of baby #5!).

That year, however, I could see that we had a new wave of volunteers with a lot of fresh energy and enthusiasm. Knowing how important it is to have renewal (I’ve written about it for long enough!), I felt that it was time to let go, step aside and let someone else take over.

Even more important than the symbolic gesture of stepping aside is the importance of truly ‘letting go’ – resisting the temptation to micromanage the new team into doing things exactly the way you did. There is no one right way to do things, and people need to add their own flair.

Instead, us veterans will sit on the sidelines, front up as manpower for the sausage sizzles and raffle tickets, and occasionally yell out helpful advice from the sidelines (I have a mental image of Statler and Waldorf – the two grumpy old men from the Muppets hahaha).

To ‘retire’ before we run out of energy is possibly the biggest gift we can give at this stage. Let us pass on our lovely handover notes, get out of the way and just ‘be there’ with our strategic wisdom and advice.

NEVER be the star – NEVER be the hero – NEVER say ‘it’s easier to just do it myself’. No matter how capable you are – all you are doing is limiting other people’s opportunity to grow and contribute into the future. It’s the greatest gift you can give to your team.

Happy Fundraising!

Mandy Weidmann

PS Wow – I just calculated that my youngest will finish primary school will be 2025 so it’s lucky I still have energy to give – I’ll need it!!!

The Fundraising Whisperer

Original article published August 12, 2015

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