Say It Ain’t So!
By Steve Jacobson
CEO, JCA, Inc.
NRE Executive Board Trustee
For some of you, the phrase “Say It Ain’t So” might harken you back to the mid-90’s when rock band Weezer released a song on their first album by that name. For others, it might have the literal meaning of disbelief and the hope that someone will assure you that what you just heard isn’t real. This was the feeling I had when I read an article published in the Chronicle of Philanthropy about a recent survey* that found that 51% of fundraisers plan to leave their jobs within the next two years. Moreover, about 30% of fundraisers planned to leave the fundraising profession altogether. Why, you might ask? It seems that three factors play a major role: 1) unrealistic fundraising goals, 2) low pay and 3) frustrating or broken cultures.
You’re probably thinking that this isn’t something new. And you’re right. As Heather Joslyn pointed out in this Chronicle article, there was a study conducted by CompassPoint and the Evelyn & Walter Haas Jr. Fund in 2013 that basically reached the same conclusion – but specifically for chief development officers. Now, we have statistical proof that the pressures to succeed don’t just stop at the top, they extend throughout the ranks of fundraisers.
This new survey found that about 55% of fundraisers feel unappreciated. Why? Low pay was certainly a factor, but it was also due to management and boards not understanding the challenges we have in development. This lack of understanding often manifests itself in fundraisers being given overly aggressive goals and not enough resources and tools to succeed. And so the frustration builds…
Is there a final straw that breaks the camel’s back? Yes. Survey respondents were asked why they left their most recent job and 85% said that there was no or little opportunity for advancement. So if you’re under-appreciated, underpaid, and don’t see an opportunity for a promotion, why stick around?
There are certainly management lessons to be learned from this survey. But, there are also lessons to be learned about how each fundraiser can break through and be successful. We, at NRE, provide our members with the resources and tools to help them succeed. Keep a look out for more articles, blogs, and white papers on fundraising soon.
* Survey of 1,035 fundraisers in the United States and Canada, conducted by Harris Insights & Analytics, through the Harris Poll, for the Chronicle of Philanthropy and the Association of Fundraising Professionals.