By Beverley Gwadera, Head of Business Development (NGOs) at Ebury.
For the last seven years, I have been in roles that provide financial and fundraising support to the charitable sector. In that time, I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. But the toughest meetings I attended were always when the Head of Fundraising and Head of Finance were in the same room. I have often found myself asking if they are working for the same organization.
Although they ultimately have the same agenda, the fundraisers undertake their duties with a stubborn, passionate enthusiasm, selling their cause to everyone in their path. It is very rare not to encounter their charm and engaging presence at networking events. They “sell” it to the potential donor; they are tireless.
Then there is their financial counterparts; looking after the economic health of the organization, seeking the best returns and mitigating risk. But, unlike the fundraisers, they often don’t seem to realise the enormous impact they have on the beneficiaries, viewing their work as figures on a balance sheet. They don’t seem to have that ‘fire’ or, dare I say it, recognition within the organization for what they can achieve.
I vividly remember sitting with the Financial Director of an NGO with an annual income of over £7m. I practically had to scoop my jaw off the floor when he mentioned how he was "too busy" to look at what was going on in the currency markets to ensure he was doing the most with their money.
This is a potential problem for many NGOs as there is a percentage that could leverage better returns and drive down costs, but engaging with providers to achieve this is not something they welcome. In order to achieve maximum results, fundraisers and financiers need to share the same passion and in turn, the same vision – beyond the mission statement. Currently when I ask NGO financiers, "how often do you review your financial providers" the answer frequently is, "probably not often enough". What would their fundraisers think if they heard that? Moreover, what would their donors think?
So what can Financial Directors do to remedy the situation? Firstly, spend some time with the fundraisers, reigniting your passion for the cause. Don’t view the financial role as just the “money-out” people; see it as holding the power to maximize all your NGO’s efforts. Every penny saved is the same as one donated via the fundraisers and allows you to deliver greater impact for your beneficiaries. Finance people, be proud of that and make sure your colleagues recognize what you bring to the table!
Connect and #ShareHumanity this #WHD2015!
Come and meet us at AIDF Global Disaster Relief Summit 2015, where our experts will be in attendance and we’ll be part of the panel on Electronic Payment Models for Aid Operations on Friday, September 11 at Ronald Reagan Building in Washington D.C.
We look forward to seeing you there!