Underdeveloped: Real Talk from GIFT about Challenges in Nonprofit Fundraising

Underdeveloped report coverA recent report entitled Underdeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising published by CompassPoint and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund helps to further elevate many of the questions and experiences we have been talking about for some time.

Here are a few of the key takeaways from the report:

  • Development positions are the “hardest to fill and retain.”
  • Development staff when asked “anticipate departure” from the organization and don’t see themselves working in development into the future.
  • Many organizations “lack the conditions for fundraising success, specifically with regard to having a team of fundraisers.” These lacking conditions include board and staff engagement in fundraising, organizational fundraising/philanthropy culture, and fundraising infrastructure (i.e., database, fundraising plan, etc.).
  • Nearly all (89 percent) of development directors reported “only little or moderate influence on the engagement of other staff in fund development or on annual budgeting.”

Given the findings of Underdeveloped, we asked people working in development to share some of their thoughts and reactions on what they found most compelling from this report and what they felt was missing. Here are a couple of responses we gathered. You can download the full article here. Underdeveloped is available from this link.

“I felt an odd sense of relief after reading Underdeveloped. For so long I’d internalized the perception that development positions were ‘revolving door positions’ all the while understanding that it couldn’t just be ‘bad fundraisers’ who had created this norm. The report not only spelled out the reasons for the ridiculous amount of turnover, it assured me that the problem does not (and should not) rest solely on the fundraisers’ shoulders. After this report, I think a lot more people in nonprofit organizations became aware that the assumption that a development director is solely responsible for ensuring the financial well-being and sustainability of an organization is completely unrealistic. We seriously need to disrupt the preconceived ideas and generalizations we have about how fund development can and should work.”

–Bianca Escalante, Development Director,  Level Playing Field

“The report had a narrow view of ‘a culture of fundraising/philanthropy. The frame I like to use regarding what it means to create a culture of fundraising/philanthropy is that fundraising is a form of engagement and organizing, that it’s one way among many [in which] people step up, get involved, and see themselves as making a difference in the world. It’s not the only way people make a difference, and sometimes we lose sight of the fact that people want to be more than a source of funds to the organizations they support. But if social change comes about because people stand up and say, ‘No, something’s wrong with the status quo, and I’m going to be part of doing something about it,’ then giving money, time, skills, connections, etc., is part of it all. In that view, fundraising is not a compartmentalized and technical job that is relegated to the back office. The report really didn’t touch on this.”

–Stephanie Roth, Consultant, Klein & Roth Consulting

What do you think? What about the report findings resonates with you?