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Strategic Fund Development: Building Profitable Relationships That Last, Third Edition by Simone P. Joyaux

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The Challenge of Enabling

“Leadership requires major expenditures of effort and energy—more than most people care to make.” So says John Gardner in his book On Leadership.20 Enabling requires this same level of effort and energy.

Good enabling can produce immediate, albeit somewhat limited, results. However, the most dramatic and protracted benefits require the cumulative effect of long-term effort and energy.

Staff must be convinced of the value of empowered volunteers. If staff members resist, they don’t enable and the organization doesn’t move forward.

Enabling is one of the most critical functions within a philanthropic organization. This holds true for all philanthropic organizations of any size or type.

As such, enabling is an essential role of the chief executive and development officer. Through enabling, the staff/volunteer relationship works. Without enabling, dysfunction reigns.

For professionals in the philanthropic sector, the challenge is to create an organizational culture in which volunteers are enabled well. If there are no professional employees, volunteers perform the staff function of enabling. And in good governance, a board chair is a good enabler, not one of the all-too-common rogues (rogue like an elephant rampaging around!).

Sometimes we professionals succeed in creating this culture. But often we don’t. Fundraisers and chief executives still complain about their volunteers, particularly boards and fundraising volunteers. Many volunteers seem only modestly ...

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