Fundraising experience is underrepresented on boards, but fundraisers should play a bigger role

Fundraising experience is underrepresented on boards, but fundraisers should play a bigger role

Stephanie Siddall | 14 July 2016

IoF Policy officer, Stephanie Siddall, explores how fundraising experience is underrepresented on boards, and why fundraisers should play a bigger role

We’ve been round the country talking with our members about trustees, fundraising, and governance at our Future of Fundraising Regulation Series

A clear message that we heard throughout was that the link between trustees and fundraising teams is more crucial now than ever before. But that doesn’t just mean getting your trustees more on board and engaged with fundraising, but encouraging more fundraisers to play a part on trustee boards is really important as well.  

So we teamed up with the Social Change Agency, Peridot Partners and Hubbub to get to the bottom of why there aren’t more fundraisers becoming trustees, what fundraisers perceive to be barriers to trusteeship, and to try and tackle these challenges by making practical recommendations. 

We started off by surveying our members to see what they thought - the responses from over 300 fundraisers across the sector told a really interesting story:

  • 81% think that fundraising skills and experience were underrepresented on boards and charities where they had worked
  • 39% wouldn’t know where to look for trustee opportunities
  • 60% saw the barriers to becoming a trustee as lack of knowledge about the role of a trustee and how boards work 


But the results also showed that the idea of being a trustee appealed to 78%, that 88% agreed that being a trustee adds skills and experience which can help a fundraiser progress in their career and 94% believed that having a fundraiser on their board would be helpful in their day job – there’s clearly an appetite. 

To explore this a bit more, together we organised GetRaising!, a joint event which brought together fundraisers and the board members, Chairs, and CEOs who need them from a variety of organisations, large and small. It was clear from the open space discussions we had at the event that barriers to increasing fundraising governance skills on charity boards can be wide-ranging: from fundraisers feeling that they aren’t the ‘right fit’ and a perception that the time commitment would be too much on top of their full time work, to a lack of awareness of where suitable roles can be found. Some really practical recommendations for getting past those barriers also came out of the discussion, some of which could be put into practice quite easily and others that will need sector-wide leadership to implement and sustain. They can be found in the full report

The need to get more fundraising experience, insight and expertise on charity trustee boards has never been greater. But this is part of a wider conversation - the media spotlight on fundraising practice over the last year, along with considerable political pressure and public interest, has definitely been challenging for charities. But, positively, it’s led to a significant focus on governance and the role of trustees, and an increased emphasis on leadership, communication, values and culture. This was stressed in the revised version of CC20, recently published by the Charity Commission. We’ll be highlighting all of this, and more, in the practical handbook to fundraising governance we’re working on with NCVO, ACEVO and CFG (coming out later this summer), and picking up the conversation at our Trustees and Fundraising Conference in October.

GetRaising! – the new report looking at fundraisers and trustees is available now

Stephanie Siddall, Policy Manager, Institute of Fundraising


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