The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Half of fundraisers want to quit – and a quarter of bosses said they fired their last fundraiser

The headline of this post is the gist of a depressing new report from CompassPoint and the Haas, Jr. Fund: UnderDeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising. Based on a national survey of more than 2,500 development directors and executive directors, the study documents heavy turnover and vacancies in development director positions, a lack of basic fundraising systems, and key board and staff leaders who aren’t sufficiently focused on raising money. On top of that, one in four nonprofit leaders reported that their previous development director was fired.

Sorry to hit you with that news this morning. I hope it doesn’t describe your situation!

Here are the key findings – quoted from the study team.

1. Organizations are struggling with high turnover and long vacancies in the development director post.

• Executive directors at organizations where the development director position was vacant said the posts had been open for an average of 6 months. Almost half (46%) reported vacancies even longer than that.
• Half of development directors said they expect to leave their current jobs in two years or less; and the rate was even higher for smaller organizations.
• Forty percent of development directors aren’t committed to careers in development.

2. Organizations aren’t finding enough qualified candidates for development director jobs. Executives also report performance problems and a lack of basic fundraising skills among key development staff.

• Asked about the last time they tried to hire a new development director, more than half of executives (53%) said the search produced an insufficient number of candidates with the right mix of skills and experience.
• Nearly one in three executives are lukewarm about, or dissatisfied with, the performance of their current development directors.
• One in four executive directors (24%) said their development directors have no experience or are novice at “current and prospective donor research.” Among the smallest nonprofits, the number was 32%.

3. Beyond creating a development director position and hiring someone who is qualified for the job, organizations and their leaders need to build the capacity, the systems, and the culture to support fundraising success. The findings indicate that many nonprofits aren’t doing this.

• Almost one in four nonprofits (23%)—and 31% of organizations with operating budgets of under $1 million—have no fundraising plan in place. In addition, 21% of organizations overall—and 32% of organizations with operating budgets of under $1 million— have no fundraising database.
• Three out of four executive directors (75%)—and 82% of executives among organizations with operating budgets of under $1 million—say that board members are not doing enough to support fundraising.
• Twenty-six percent of executives identified themselves as having no competency or being a novice at fundraising. Further, among executives who said that asking for contributions was one of their main duties, 18% said they dislike it.
• Just 41% of development directors said the partnership between them and their executives on fund development work is strong, compared with 53% of executive directors.
• A majority of development directors reported only little or moderate influence on key activities such as getting other staff involved in fundraising or developing organizational budgets.
• Significant numbers of development directors questioned the effectiveness of their organizations’ fundraising efforts.

OK. Enough of the problem. What the heck do we do about this? Please weigh in. In the meantime, the study team recommends that we:

1. Embrace the importance fundraising across organizations

2. Elevate the field of fundraising – As explained by Kim Klein, “Money is one of the great taboos in our culture. We are taught not to think about it or ask about it… As with the subjects of sex, death, mental illness, religion, politics, and other taboos, people say little about their experiences with money. With people so carefully taught that it is rude to talk about money, it’s certainly not an easy task to ask for it.”

3. Strengthen the talent pool

4. Train boards differently

5. Treat fundraisers like the key staff they are with appropriate transition planning

6. Invest in building grantee fundraising capacity

7. Do more with technology and the innovation it allows

8. Set realistic fundraising goals

9. Share accountability for those goals

10. Fundraisers and executive directors should both show greater leadership

Someone who is trying to help re-imagine fundraising is Jennifer McCrea. She even teaches a course on this at Harvard. I recommend you check out her blog, along with this report, for more ideas.

What do you think can be done?

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About This Blog

Linda Lombardi
Content Manager

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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