Guest blogger – Dearne Cameron, CEO of Pareto Fundraising
(Sorry Moceanic subscribers and Dearne – the email that you may have received about this post did not explain that Dearne is the guest author of this article – not Sean!)
Fundraising leaders often ask me: ‘Is it better to outsource to an agency, or resource and build a highly skilled team in-house’?
Many years of charity experience have taught me this: It is not one or the other. It is a fluid working relationship that builds on a foundation of best practice, resources and returns.
It is important for a charity to have a highly skilled team that can align fundraising with the organisation’s strategy, while managing fundraising plans and engaging key stakeholders for fundraising purposes.
On the other hand, working with an agency like Pareto Fundraising provides a lot of values:
- New ideas
- Trend insights
- The skills of a multifaceted team
- Subject matter expertise
- The benefits of scalability and resourcing
That’s all great, but isn’t an in-house staff cheaper?
Possibly not: outsourcing delivers lower operational costs and provides specialisation that is not always readily available in-house. By using an agency, you have access to the range of skilled specialists who can deliver high-quality output, much faster than the thinly spread in-house resources.
Outsourcing is not a substitute for competent fundraising staff within an organisation. In-house teams still need to have the skills to work with an agency to get the best results.
An agency lets your organisation tap into a wealth of knowledge and talent and provides an opportunity to harness the experience of agency teams, who work across multiple clients, testing, analysing and adapting tactics to maximise results.
Think of it this way:
- A lot of people — on your team and elsewhere — know how to create good fundraising strategy.
- A lot of people — on your team and elsewhere — can write powerful fundraising copy and design great packages.
- A lot of people — on your team and elsewhere — can manage complex projects.
- A lot of people — on your team and elsewhere — can competently analyse data.
Those are things to outsource. Those people at an agency likely have more experience, more breadth, more specialisation. After all, it is often all they do.
For example, an in-house direct mail manager may mail 10 direct mail packages a year, with various tests and variables, building on knowledge and experience. But, for example, a typical Pareto Fundraising account manager could work on five times as many appeals, with five times the test and variable learnings.
Whilst you might have people who can do those things, only people on your team can effectively do these things:
- Build relationships across your organisational silos to get relevant information from program people.
- Make sure all internal stakeholders are getting the involvement they need (and not getting what they don’t need).
- Manage upward to keep leaders just enough (but not too much) in the loop.
- Stay on top of the many details that flow from any donor database.
There’s no way to outsource those things. The best agencies in the world can’t do it for you!
So only do in-house what only in-house people can do. Outsource the other stuff! It’s the most effective way!
The secret to working effectively with an agency is a collaborative partnership, developing a clear strategy, planning effectively and harnessing the knowledge both in-house and outsourced staff bring to the table.
Dearne Cameron, Pareto Fundraising
Note on Dearne from Sean: Dearne has worked with charities for 18 years. She was actually one of my first clients when I set up Pareto! She used to be General Manager and Director of Anglicare and Anglican Aid and Non-Executive Director for Make-A-Wish Australia for six years. She is on the board of House-With-No-Steps so has lots of experience either side of out-sourcing.
Please share your experience with outsourcing or not by leaving your reply below. We’d love to learn from your experience.
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