Attending the AFP Congress this year in Toronto helped me see the degree to which fundraisers have an extensive system of support. The Congress had over 1000 people attending, 4-6 tracks, and over 20 vendors vying for their attention. The fundraising position has access to wonderful training, print and online materials, accreditations as well as plenty of software developers and analysts trying to outperform each other in attending to their needs. I don’t mean to say that all fundraisers are adequately supported – that is far from true – or that they don’t deserve even more and better support, but I was impressed.
I found myself wishing that all of the other positions in the community sector were as well supported as the fundraising profession. Even executive directors don’t have the professional support that fundraisers have. And the other positions like grant-writers, volunteer-managers, project- or program managers, HR, board members, etc. are far behind. Serving on the board of a (wonderful) capacity-building & training non-profit for the past five years has given me a good view of this.
At Ajah, we’re happy to offer a service to ED’s and grantwriters that will help them save time, make better decisions, and focus on other priority areas.
However, there’s another kind of support that I’m really excited about Ajah being able to offer to Executive Directors and, to a lesser extent, grantwriters: that is, giving them the tools to examine funding practices and to really be able to discuss current funding policies.
Right now it’s too difficult to track what funders (federal, provincial, federal, public and private foundations, corporate) are doing. As a byproduct of all of the research we’re doing to help our clients find all possible sources of funding, we’re collecting lots of great information about funding that has never before been collected. With this information, we believe ED’s will be more empowered to develop better informed strategies on funding their organizations, and they will be armed with some of the tools they would need to argue for improved funding policies in the government and in foundation and corporate partners.
What spurred this post was an article criticizing CIDA’s new funding policies: CIDA’s new ‘partnerships’ by Gerry Barr. I found it interesting, but it would have been a stronger article if he had presented data supporting his argument.
I was recently reviewing the Canadian Media Fund’s annual report (pdf) (I read ‘em all). It is a engaging, clear, informative document that gives real information about the funder’s activities. The occasionally published report (pdf) of the Canadian Environmental Grantmankers Network gets at the same type of information. Imagine if we had that level of reporting from all of our funders on an ongoing basis.
We’ve seen that funders can be innovative when it comes to getting information they want from the recipients of their funds (i.e. the new CADAC system). I’m excited that we’re going to give non-profits some of the tools they need to keep on top of their funders, and argue for improved funding practices.
After all, accountability and transparency of funders is at least as good an idea as accountability of non-profits.