Fundraising Is Not Sales: Things we learned and re-learned from Envision’s Development Roundtable
Earlier this year, Chronicle of Philanthropy set off alarm bells in the sector with the statistic, “28% of fundraising professionals plan to leave the sector in the next two years.” Of course, we panicked. It’s one thing for development professionals to switch jobs (btw - check out all of our searches), but it’s another thing to stop fundraising altogether! In order to learn more, we decided to throw a party. Here’s what we asked and learned at the Development Roundtable.
We asked: What makes development jobs hard / what can cause burnout?
They said: Working in a silo, feeling disconnected from the mission, unrealistic expectations/goals, aggressive timelines, lack of opportunities for professional growth, working with people who think of fundraising as sales/transactional, not having the ability/authority to say no, and navigating egos - to name a few.
We asked: What do you love about the work?
They said: Meeting new people, the thrill of the chase, building relationships, making connections, stewarding and redirecting other people’s money, having an impact, securing resources to make a change, and being a leader.
We asked: What do you need to succeed?
They said: Trust and flexibility, transparency with leadership, being listened to and respected as an expert in donor/human behavior, for organizations/leadership to continue the work in DEIB and ensure safe spaces for BIPOC fundraisers.
Our conclusion: Fundraising is not sales. We know this, but we need CEOs, board members, and non-development staff to know this, too. Fundraising Development professionals are mission-driven. They work in the nonprofit sector because they believe in your work, connect with your constituents, and have a deep passion for change and equity. Forcing them into transactional relationships can and will burn them out. So if you want to keep your development team, engage them as leaders and trust their expertise, or they'll be coming to us for a new job!