#23 | Fundraising Consultants: "We're not gurus..."
Jim Langley refers to himself as a concerned practitioner. The way that he describes the role of fundraising counsel is much like that of a cartographer. Someone who understands the current landscape, who has traversed similar paths before, yet maintains a learning posture, always aware that the landscape is changing. Jim believes that too few organizations are unaware of the evolutionary changes occurring in our sector and prefer instead to keep their heads in the ground.
Some of the factors that have changed the landscape are the decline in trust of institutions, the tendency to ignore anything that resembles mass marketing, different worldviews and values, and an entrepreneurial mindset that insists on a strong value proposition and a clear societal return on investment.
The role of fundraising counsel is to ensure that everyone is looking at the same map. His role is to ensure that everyone is strategically positioned, knows the direction in which they are moving, and is able evaluate progress. Counsel may be most beneficial when a new course must be charted.
Jim concluded our conversation with two very profound thoughts that are certainly applicable to anyone in an advisory role. A history professor once encouraged Jim to “be what's missing.” This has been a defining characteristic of his career – to identify where the gaps are and play that role for his client. Jim also insisted that to play this adaptive role, one must be humble: “We're not gurus, we're not sitting on high, and you know, putting out pronouncements based on eminent wisdom. If we're not still learning, if we're not still humble enough to continue to learn, I don't think we can be effective consultants.”
As a reminder, this is the third in a series of six conversations in which we take a closer look at the role of fundraising counsel. Please be sure to come back tomorrow for the next broadcast.