Fundraising professionals play instrumental roles at nonprofit organizations but get less pay and support than they need and deserve.
Two new studies suggest nonprofits may not be investing enough in their fundraising staff, particularly in women. A new Compensation and Benefits Study by the Association of Fundraising Professionals says salaries for charitable fundraisers fell 2 percent in the U.S. and 3.9 percent in Canada. Paulette Maehara, the group’s president and CEO, attributes the declines to the recession.
But in a recession, when raising money can be a lot harder, nonprofits should be careful not to reduce spending for the part of their business they depend on to generate financial support. And the recession does not account for a persistent gender gap, with men consistently paid roughly $20,000 more than women with comparable jobs in the nine years the survey has been conducted. Women, who account for the majority of fundraising professionals, represent 70 percent to 75 percent of members in the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and of members who have responded to the organization’s annual salary surveys.
The study also says 4 in 10 fundraisers responding to the survey looked for jobs with new employers within the last year. The reasons, the fundraisers say, include wanting higher pay, frustration with their work environment, the desire for more interesting or challenging work, or for opportunities to advance their careers elsewhere.
Underscoring the key role fundraisers play at nonprofits is a second study, by the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy, which says high-performing philanthropic fundraisers heading up major-gift and planned-giving programs often were their organization’s most-effective “rainmakers” in fiscal 2007. And with major gifts averaging $55,000 from individual givers, the highest-performing fundraising organizations invested three times more, on average, than other groups surveyed, and earned five times more in high-dollar gifts.
As the U.S. moved into a recession in December 2007, fewer dollars came from government, business, and foundations, the study says. The cost of raising a dollar was rising while the return on investment was declining for annual giving and special events. Still, the study says, the highest returns from annual gifts and special events were generated by fundraisers who invested the most in staff and resources devoted to those fundraising programs. Annual giving and special events, while not producing the highest return on investment, “remain worthwhile sources of contributions from new and repeat donors,” and “provide the base in order to succeed with major-gift and planned-giving solicitation,” William McGinley, the group’s president and CEO, says in a statement.
Successful fundraising requires adequate investment in fundraising, but professional fundraisers, particularly women, are not getting what they want from their organizations. And as a Bank of America-sponsored study conducted by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University found last year, wealthy donors are relying a lot less on nonprofit staff and a lot more on legal and financial professionals to help them make decisions on their charitable giving than they did two years ago.
The way a charity’s fundraising staff treats donors is more important than any other factor in determining whether givers give to a particular charity, according to Adrian Sargeant, Robert F. Hartsook Professor of Fundraising at the Center on Philanthropy. So if they expect to be more successful in their fundraising, nonprofits will need to increase their investment in fundraising, particularly in paying and supporting the work of their fundraisers and closing the pay gap between men and women.
Todd Cohen, a veteran news reporter and editor, is editor and publisher of Philanthropy Journal, an online newspaper published by the A.J. Fletcher Foundation in Raleigh, N.C. Cohen has taught nonprofit reporting and media relations at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and at Duke University, and regularly speaks on the topics of nonprofit media relations and trends in the charitable world.