Ten years ago was the dawn of a new age. New century, new millennium, new president in the White House and new chief executive at the Institute of Charity Fundraising Managers.
Lindsay Boswell arrived at the ICFM to find a ‘complete mess’. “The ICFM was an inward looking organisation that spoke to itself,” says Boswell. “Today the Institute of Fundraising is an organisation that talks on behalf of the profession of fundraising.”
Boswell started his 10-year tenure at the institute as an interim manager with a remit to either “turn it around or shoot it in the neck”. In 2010 the Institute is a very much ‘turned around’ and plays a central role in making fundraising a profession that people are proud to join.
For the Institute itself, income has grown from £1.5m to over £4m and individual membership from 1,960 to 5,300. “Is that growth good or bad?” muses Boswell. “I don’t know, but I do know it’s a fraction of what it should be.”
There’s still a long way to go to turn perceptions of fundraising around in the wider charity world and beyond. “Things have not changed nearly enough,” says Boswell. “There have been improvements in trustees, ceos and umbrella bodies’ attitudes towards fundraising, but too many still think fundraising is a necessary evil.
“It is a complete disgrace and unprofessional on the part of many chief executives to treat fundraising in this way. If you look at a charity where the ceo gets fundraising then they’re successful. If there’s no income, they can’t achieve their mission.”
Boswell believes that part of the problem lies with trustees and that this is because there is no strong voice for trustees and no proper support and learning network. “If you look at the school governor world, it is totally different. When you become a governor, you receive handbooks, full of training course available to you as a school governor. There is a mass of information there and a great support network. Trustees are in the same place, but the government is not taking trustees seriously.”
Trustees aside, fundraisers are also in short supply. There has been a shortage of skilled fundraisers for a long time and many have been able to hop from job to job throughout the sector with just references from past posts to give them credence.
Until now fundraising as a profession has been hampered by having no credible qualifications, but this is about to change. The Institute has been working hard to rectify this and a new series of qualifications will be launched this autumn, from entry level to fundraising director level, supported by a programme of continuing professional development (CPD).
Together with the fundraising codes of practice this will become the backbone of the Institute’s offering to fundraisers. In the past it has sometimes been difficult to justify why fundraisers should cough up to join an Institute that didn’t appear to have anything very practical to offer them. Now with the promise of lifelong learning and meaningful qualifications to take them through their careers, the picture is very different.
This has been just part of Boswell’s work with the Institute, and he is the first person to point out that he’s just the ceo and that it now has a strong senior management team taking the organisation forward.
He thinks the next few years will be interesting for the Institute. “My time at the IoF has coincided with times where everything has resulted in RoI. Apart from the last one year at most, it’s been a good time for fundraising.
“The next 10 years will have to be more creative and thoughtful, but this is great territory for the Institute. Knowledge and networking will be more relevant than ever.”
His time has not just been spent within the organisation. He was instrumental in seeing the sector accept self-regulation, and in the setting up of the FRSB. “I’m proud of the sector for accepting self-regulation and for the creation of the FRSB,” he says. “The FRSB is an insurance policy, and it requires forward looking to take out insurance. A lot more charities need to promote it to their donors to increase confidence.”
One of Boswell’s biggest beefs has been the lack of academic research in the sector. He famously resigned from the advisory board of the Centre for Philanthropy and Giving Research at CASS Business School earlier in the year over concerns about the lack of research of practical use to fundraisers.
“There is lots of stuff for the future that needs doing,” he says, “but one of the most important is that we need accurate, academic-based, practitioner-friendly research that influences fundraising strategy. It’s vital and we’re not there. Academics are not talking to the fundraising sector about what they want, and they must.”
Perhaps this is partly what he means when Boswell says he is leaving “at the stage where the profession is going through growing pains from teenager to adult. This is bizarre for a profession that has been around for trillions of years”.
But he is leaving the Institute in a good place. “We have a really clear five year strategy in place. I expect my successor will challenge it and have her own points to make, but the direction of travel is quite simple and clear, achievable, realistic and sustainable.”
And what’s the thing Boswell is most proud of in his decade at the head of the Institute of Fundraising? “Managing to get through 10 years without any utterance on the Compact – because I don’t understand it,” he says.
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