Stephen Cotterill: Fundraisers should not be left to shoulder the financial burden of the pandemic on their own

08 Oct 2020 Voices

There’s a lot of unusual things going on at moment. A lot of the use of the word “unprecedented”. But one conundrum that is as old as the hills, but once again sharply in focus, is the sometimes fraught relationship between trustees and fundraisers.

Recouping the shortfall in income due to the pandemic has landed squarely on the shoulders of fundraisers, many of whom were already facing unrealistic targets and timeframes. With teams furloughed and familiar channels such as events and face to face entirely decimated, the challenge can be overwhelming.

But fundraisers shouldn’t carry this burden alone. Trustees have a key role to play in supporting income generation, whether they want to do it or not. In the time of Covid, it is vital that trustees understand what fundraisers do and support them. Fundraising can’t take backstage in a recovery; it has to be front and centre.

However, if there is no understanding of the fundraising profession and, in some organisations, even a lingering distrust of fundraising practices, then it will be difficult to get the much needed buy-in from the board. It falls on both parties to remedy this – not only for the sake of fundraisers, but also for the beneficiaries.

This is often as much an issue of a lack of communication as it is a systemic problem. Many trustees still do not understand fundraising or see its relevance to their role. But it is entirely relevant from a governance, as well as financial, perspective. Fundraisers have to be proactive to tackle this lack of understanding, for example by joining boards themselves and lobbying senior management teams for a fundraiser to be included in board meetings.

Of course, not all organisations face this problem. But in my experience, from small grassroots organisations to sector behemoths, it is an all-too-common challenge. Hopefully, the cover story of this issue will give more grist to the mill to help you convince your trustees to get involved at this critical time.


Charity Finance Week 2020 will take place online from 23 to 27 November. The theme of “turning crisis into opportunity” will explore the role of finance and IT leaders in guiding their charities through the pandemic and rebuilding for the future. Incorporating the Charity Finance Summit, the Charity Fraud Conference and the Charity Technology Conference, this is not an event to miss. Find out more here.



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