Fundraisers – and fundraising – need to be funded.
The pandemic has caused an interesting shake-up: many employers are struggling to find or keep employees.
Meanwhile, the nonprofit sector has an unfortunate history of paying poorly – that matches up to a history of short stays for employees. (It always seems like the person who doesn’t work for you must be more talented… and the new job must be a better fit for you.)
With this in mind, I came across this tweet, touting an article in Pro Publica.
You can read the article and judge St. Jude’s for yourself.
But what really burned me about this tweet is this part:
400+ fundraisers make more than $100k.
I’m not alone in saying this. Plenty of people with bigger profiles than mine have been talking about this stupid yet persistent idea for years.
Fundraising is a critical investment in an organization’s work
Fundraising is an expense. It’s also mission.
Stop and think on that a while, please.
Fundraising doesn’t take from mission. Fundraising IS mission. Why? Because when you raise money, you invite more people to participate in your cause. More donors mean more mission work accomplished AND more people invested in that work.
The pernicious idea that you can judge an organization’s worth by calculating a simple ratio between program expenses and fundraising expenses is bunk… but it’s so captivatingly easy that people can’t quit it.
The nonprofit sector is a huge part of our economy
We’re not working on the fringes here. We represent nearly 10% of the U.S. labor force. As of 2018, ours was the third largest sector. That’s not nothing.
Our work is needed. We matter. So we need to stop thinking of ourselves as the real world’s poor cousin.
Nonprofit employees should not be expected to work for peanuts. Yet even Pro Publica, a nonprofit newsroom, pays their top employees more than $100k. (And good for them!)
This is the 2019 filing:
So why does Eric Umansky, (their current Deputy Managing Editor), highlight $100k as a shocking number for St. Jude’s?
Find good people; treat (and pay) them well
If you invest in fundraising you will raise more money. If you can find – and keep – good fundraisers, you will raise more money.
And because fundraising is about building relationships, if you keep good fundraisers around, your fundraising will be more successful.
Sometimes, good fundraising looks like direct mail premiums. (Lots of comments in response to the Pro Publica article about how much people hate them… yet they still work.) The only way to know is to test.
Good fundraising may not look like what you have in mind, especially if you’re not a fundraiser. Direct response fundraising may not be pretty. It may be corny. Those long letters you swear you don’t read… they still do better than the short ones you swear you would.
Whether it’s direct response or person to person, fundraising takes skill, patience, and time. All that costs money.
Here are some ways you can keep good people around:
A good environment
Don’t ask people to put up with temper tantrums. Or bad chairs.
Invest in the work
Don’t ask someone to raise money with no budget, for instance. I know there’s this idea that all someone needs is a phone and someone else’s Rolodex. But it doesn’t work like that.
Praise in public, teach in private
I was taught this early on: save criticism for a private meeting. But praise people where others can hear. The ripple effect helps everyone.
Praising staff doesn’t take anything away from you. It only brings staff people closer to you. If you want fundraising staff with more clout, be sure to praise their good work at board meetings… and invite them to hear it!
Involve fundraising staff in big decisions
This doesn’t mean every decision has to be a group decision. But no one should be out of the loop when it involves their work or life.
Do not allow competition and infighting
People can have differences of opinion. That’s healthy. But do not play them against each other. If you’re the decision-maker, ask for input then make the decision. Fundraising staff need to connect with other departments – like program people and communications/marketing people.
Pay them as well as possible
If that means scaling back program growth, then do that. Do not create programs on a whim. If you have good people and give them the tools they need, your organization will grow. Learn how to talk to funders and other investors in your organization about why good pay matters and helps your work.
Good people and good fundraising make strong organizations that can accomplish lots of good things. It all goes together.
P.S. My friend Dani Robbins tweeted an article that was so inspiring I need to share it with you. Read about how one Washington nonprofit raised staff salaries – all of them – to a minimum of $70,000.