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Hanging onto your fundraisers isn’t getting cheaper anytime soon

Written on Dec 19, 2022

Nearly half – 46% – of professionally-employed fundraisers plan to leave their current employer within the next two years, a number revealed in new research that is consistent with findings in numerous recent polls. And, 9% of 2,674 fundraisers worldwide surveyed for the report plan to leave the field entirely during the next two years.  

The figure of those planning to abandon the industry is considerably less than the 30% that the researchers acknowledge other studies have shown but still a cause for concern at a time when demand for fundraising talent outstrips supply, according to the authors of What Makes Fundraisers Tick, based on research done for Revolutionise International. 

“This (hemorrhaging) of talent is not sustainable, not least because we are awash with fundraising vacancies on both sides of the Atlantic,” wrote Adrian Sargeant, co-director of the Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy. 

The research focuses on what nonprofit managers can do to improve the retention of those who work in fundraising and reduce the churn costs associated with replacing them. 

Though many fundraisers join the profession accidentally, most are driven by a desire to make a difference for a cause they care deeply about and stay for this reason, the researchers found. Salary and benefits were found to be a much lower consideration for most who work in the field, though those leaving one job for another acknowledged factoring it into the decision of where to work next. 

Notable factors associated with job satisfaction, beyond the intrinsic rewards of the work itself, include being treated with respect and receiving the support of organizational leaders and board members. 

Factors contributing to job dissatisfaction were found to include lack of professional growth and lack of a career trajectory, particularly when persons in other organizational roles were perceived as having a better chance of promotion to leadership positions within an organization. “Many fundraisers appear to have to move on to move up,” the authors wrote. 

The researchers also found that disagreements within a fundraising team were generally perceived as healthy and positive, but conflicts with an organizational leader or with other teams about how fundraising should be conducted had a draining effect on loyalty to one’s employer. 

One finding the authors deemed “depressing” was the 26.5% of respondents who had experienced job-related harassment or discrimination at one time or another. “Although shocking, these figures are in line with the results of other recent surveys of fundraisers,” the authors wrote. 

Passion rather than financial gain was found to be the overall greatest motivating factor for most fundraisers, with most willing to accept a lot that isn’t right about a position to pursue their passion. Employers “are therefore advised to think through the implications of what it means to be a professional fundraiser and the degree to which team members are presently treated as such,” the authors wrote. 

A total of 2,674 individuals participated, with 687 respondents answering every question. The majority of respondents were in the United States and the U.K.