Guest Post: Putting The Wrong Labels On Boxes That Don’t Actually Exist – Part 2

It’s All About Relationships

So, what should we call someone whose primary role is to raise funds for the organization? Well, we could label them by what they actually do: Fund-raising Director. A little crass, perhaps, but accurate.

Or is it? Two arguments come to mind:

First, anyone and absolutely everyone involved with a non-profit organization, from the Auditor to the printer, from the Master of Ceremonies to the sweet old lady who ensures sink faucets gleam, is directly involved in fund-raising, without exception. Gail Perry puts it right out there in Fired-Up Fund-raising: “Fundraising is everybody’s job – both board AND staff.”  If a performer or a security guard believes they are exempt, retrain or expel them. If someone who gathers data or fills out grant applications believes they are the organization’s exclusive fund-raisers, retrain or expel them.

When everyone takes a personally empowered responsibility for ensuring that donors give and grants are awarded, the outcome can only be a healthy financial environment, which will also help avoid scandals like San Diego Opera’s husband-and-wife shut-down debacle.

The Only Priority

Second, anyone who helps raise funds (everyone, according to the previous argument) is really a relationship professional. Income, including interest and dividends, comes from people, and the organization’s relationships are really the only priority that needs careful directing. “It’s All About Relationships. You don’t build a brand by begging for favors,” writes Issie Lapowsky in Inc magazine.

Once responsibility for developing all aspects of the organization is given to the Executive Director (all relationships), and responsibility for actualizing the mission is given to the Artistic or Program Director (internal relationships), the next most important responsibility is maintaining external relationships. Who by?

One such role could be labeled Relationship Director. But perhaps a combination of Director-level positions for Community Relations, Audience Relations and Performer Relations could work, as long as they all talk to each other to coordinate focused fund-raising campaigns and outsource or share teammates who fill out relevant grant applications. Maybe the latest trend of replacing sponsorships with partnerships requires a Cultural Responsibility Director instead.

Already we are struggling to identify a convenient box in which to put these roles.

Destroy and Rebuild

Tom Peters rants in his book Re-imagine! that we pursue preservation and value permanence, whereas he imagines “a world where the timid goal of improvement has given way to an unabashed commitment to destruction.” By replacing an incorrectly boxed Development Director with “leaders of relationships,” no longer does ownership of fund-raising rely on one person or isolated administration team.

If you can’t adjust to that concept just yet, at least remind everyone that your Development Director is actually raising funds, not developing the organization which is the Executive Director’s responsibility. Doing so will go a long way to helping your Board govern with clarity and put the right labels on the right boxes. Especially when composing job descriptions.

And that is just one example. Think on the term “Classical Music” for another.

But what if we take Tom Peters’ advice to destroy all the way, and simply remove the boxes?

There Is No Box

Throughout my life the maxim “think outside the box” has grated my teeth more than fingernails on a chalkboard. I realized early on that boxes only exist in the first place because we blindly swallow the elixir found in second-rate business guides written by self-published theorists.

For years my website flaunted the phrase “Don’t be fooled: there is no box” until one of my coaches suggested it sounds like the elixir found in second-rate business guides. They also suggest that if an organization is not growing it is going backwards, but as Nicky Hayward declares in There’s a Small Hotel, “I don’t think life is always about business manuals.”

Perhaps they have charmed us into believing that putting things in boxes is convenient: easily filed, easily programmed, easily found… but that only works if things are boxed and labeled accurately, of course, yet we already proved above that tends not to happen in our industry.

Embody The Role

If you want the world to value how you serve, a label is probably needed. Yet, putting labels on boxes that exist only in others’ minds is a balancing act and a perpetual guess. Let’s take special care in describing ourselves properly rather than adopting off-the-shelf or trendy lingo that sounds great, but does not actually embody the role or function we perform.

Which is…

[How do you make people’s lives better?]

About Stephen P Brown

Two-time Global Music Awards Winner, British American Conductor Composer Stephen P Brown has shared his zeal for live music, dance and drama for over 35 years throughout the USA, UK, Europe and Africa. He is a deeply adventurous and creative visionary currently Conductor of the Richey Community Orchestra & Chorus, the Dunedin Concert Band, and Sunfonia Chorale. He founded the Medway Chamber Orchestra and Pinellas Percussion and is on a #PsalmQuest to write 150 new pieces of music by his 50th birthday. Brown also has experience in arts-unrelated small business management and Corporate Quality, and is a certified Associate in Project Management.

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2 thoughts on “Guest Post: Putting The Wrong Labels On Boxes That Don’t Actually Exist – Part 2”

  1. Thanks for these posts – they came at the right time for me as we are assessing how to (re)advertise this kind of role. We are moving towards the idea of a Talent and Resource Development department – focusing on fueling our work with great artistic partners and the money necessary to support our projects (all of which are collaborative). For me, it was a huge aha moment that our donors and our artistic collaborators are often overlapping, need similar kinds of support, and are separated to the detriment of our mission fulfillment. Bringing them together in one department feels right. Now we just have to craft the job to lead it.

    • Excellent! I am so pleased you no longer feel alone/ you now feel validated! These are not necessarily new ideas but you are right – people are beginning to realize the current structure is not the most effective. I’m interested in hearing how things pan out. Do keep us updated! Thanks for commenting 🙂


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