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.
You can help your in-house people reach their maximum potential with our powerful Moceanic courses on practical fundraising topics. Find out more here.
” 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.”
Bigging up this part – coudn’t agree more! Agencies can work magic, sometimes – making a carriage fit for Cinderella out of the pumpkin of the client’s brief. But they can’t work miracles and make that carriage out of a pumpkin seed, or worse, nothing at all.
Obviously some clients are amazing (#notallclients) but there are a few out there who seem to really struggle with understanding this.
Thanks, Caoileann – agencies can often help, but can never solve all the charity’s problems. Especially things like obsession with the cost of fundraising (http://www.moceanic.com/2017/which-pile-of-money/) silos inside the charity (http://www.moceanic.com/2016/really-integrating-direct-mail-with-major-donors-and-bequests/) and more.
The article is a good promotion for your business – however it is also true! One scenario I would see as useful – is where it is hard to get funding for another staff member. The complexities and combinations of boards and CEO’s and others in control of those decisions mean that often people see certain budget items differently to others.
1. You might be able to get funding for on e staff member that you need for one type of work, but actually need 1 1/2 or 2 – eg someone to do data as well as someone to work on a suite of major events. Outsourcing may be seen as more favourable.
2. Jealousy and the culture within the organisation can also play a part – service staff may not be educated on how fundraising teams work and may be wanting additional staff on their teams, and see an additional staff member in the fundraising team as depriving clients of much needed care.
3. Space issues also come into it – there are plenty of charities in cramped premises and while they may need more help in the fundraising area they have nowhere to put staff, and no move in sight.
4. Looking at the list of the 4 areas you have mentioned that could be outsourced – even if you have strong skills and experience in all 4 areas (in some cases helped by Masterclasses and reading people like Sean and Tom Ahern, et al!) you simply may not have time or the staff who have time to do them all to the desired standard. And some of those things can be projects or seasonal – so you don’t need a fulltime staff member all of the time.
I think that at the end of the day if you’re smart enough to identify the right balance of who does what, and can sell the benefits and can get a hearing, approval and just get started, the results will speak for themselves.
Thanks Lisa, lots of good points.
Whilst I am no longer part of Pareto, I have no problem promoting either them or the concept of outsourcing, or agencies like them or Ask Direct in Ireland, Mind Wise in Netherlands and Direct Mind in Austria. We set up Pareto to help charities in a cost effective manner, and that is still why they are there – for the reasons in the article and indeed your extra points!
No matter how good our training, or Tom’s (thank you!) there is still strength in outsourcing in many cases.
I felt like this article in particular spoke to me today..thank you