The Future of Fundraisers

A recent report on job satisfaction produced by the Chronicle of Philanthropy and the Association of Fundraising Professionals found that 51% of development professionals who responded said that they did not expect to be in their current job two years from now and 30% said that they did not expect to still be in the profession two years from now.

What does that mean for the future of the profession?

How can you build relationships, which is the basis for fundraising, if staff changes every two years? The short tenure of development staff has had an impact on many organizations for years. These issues were raised in UnderDeveloped, a 2013 report from CompassPoint. We have seen little change since then.

Organizations that can retain staff have a distinct advantage over those who have a revolving door in the development so every organization should be examining their development shop and personnel policies with an eye to maximizing staff retention. Here are some common complaints I hear from fellow development professionals:

  • Unrealistic expectations: Organizations often expect a new development professional with proven success to begin getting results immediately. In my experience, a new development professional starts hitting optimal performance about 18 months into the job and continues seeing moderate increases annually after that. But some organizations are expecting more by the time a new employee meets their first annual evaluation. This is exacerbated by budget committees who set fundraising goals based upon the gap between what they want to do and what they made previously. Setting goals should be a result of a conversation beginning with revenue projections based upon fundraising opportunity and a strategic development plan that takes advantage of those opportunities.
  • Under-staffing: Many organizations do not have adequate development staff for the amount of activity required to meet the desired goals. The burden is even greater if the organization has opted for lots of fundraising events to meet goal. Although events serve lots of purposes including publicity in the general community, donor acquisition, and an avenue for corporate giving through sponsorships, they are the least cost-effective way to raise money. Every organization should have one signature event as part of their comprehensive development program, but ideally, they should do one event and do it really well. Under-staffing is a barrier to an appropriate work/life balance which leads to burnout.
  • Low compensation: Nonprofits do not have the resources of for-profit companies, but many nonprofits also operate from a position of poverty. They think that cutting corners with each expense is the only way to operate with limited resources. Nonprofits can’t compete with for-profit companies, but mission-driven individuals with professional skills are attracted to the organizations that provide adequate compensation (including benefits). Higher salaries are an investment in the people who can bring you higher revenues.

Infographic by AFP