This summer, the “Chronicle of Philanthropy” released the results of a poll it commissioned with the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and the results were clear: there are a lot of unhappy fundraisers.
“Why Fundraisers Leave, and How to Keep Them” identifies the reasons for these challenges and offers solutions to them, and I recommend reading it. But the solutions offered in the article will often need to be implemented by leadership. And since most fundraisers aren’t in the decision-making roles to make it happen, they have identified their own solution: 51% of respondents report plans to leave their organizations within the next two years. Our profession, our industry and we as individuals deserve better.
I’d like to share some of the key findings from the article and offer some strategies that fundraisers can implement – because waiting for leadership to fix these issues is not a strategy, and to create lasting change in the field, solutions will need to come from all sides.
55% of current fundraisers report they “often feel unappreciated” in their work.
It’s easier for others to appreciate your work when they understand it and care about you and the outcomes you work hard to deliver. Think strategically about how you can integrate yourself with the rest of the organization outside of the fundraising team. Present to other departments about how their work supports fundraising and ask how you can support them. Participate in non-fundraising committees. Invite colleagues to coffee or lunch. True integration often builds appreciation. A greater understanding of our roles, and the partnerships we can provide, brings value.
93% say they could work for an organization only when they have a strong belief in its mission.
Fundraisers are an idealistic group, and that idealism can help overcome the day-to-day challenges, if we stay connected to the mission. Volunteer for non-fundraising activities. Shadow another department. Attend events, lectures or other engagements that have nothing to do with fundraising but that will expand your knowledge of your organization and build passion for the work being done. Stay connected to the impact that you are making through your organization.
And, make sure you have a true understanding of that mission before joining the organization. Too often I hear there is a disconnect between the work of the advancement team and that of the organization. Asking to see impact reports and donor experience tools prior to joining the team will allow you to ensure there is a connection between what we share with donors and what we are bring asked to raise money for
25% of fundraisers are dissatisfied with professional development opportunities open to them. And, 34% report dissatisfaction with their access to leadership training.
Fundraisers often must get creative to continue their professional development, but it is possible. Read blogs that focus on different areas of fundraising and expand your perspective:
- The Agitator is usually data-driven and focused on direct response vehicles
- Jim Langley’s blog tends to address leadership issues for large institutions
- Nonprofit AF discusses big picture challenges facing nonprofits, with additional attention to the issues that face organizations run by communities of color
- Penelope Burk’s blog analyzes current trends in the industry
- Donor Relations Guru focuses on the donor experience and the site has terrific examples, samples and templates
Look into the professional development opportunities being afforded by the memberships your organization belongs too. Many offer webinars or newsletters with tips and tricks as part of the membership.
Find people you can go for advice or brainstorming, and if there’s a leader in the field you’ve admired, seek them out. Be unabashed about building your professional network.
There are scenarios throughout our careers when the best option is to leave our current employer. But given the data found in this report, it’s also highly likely that a new employer may bring some of the same old concerns. Which is why I challenge each of us to explore how we can lead change in our field now, and make things better for ourselves and our colleagues in the future.
At KDD Philanthropy, we believe that all stakeholders can make shifts in the workplace environment, and we offer team trainings and individual coaching to support shifts in culture, accountability and opportunity.