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America’s Nonprofits Face ‘Severe Shortage’ of Fundraisers

A new report on America’s multi-billion-dollar nonprofit fundraising industry suggests it is on the brink of a staffing crisis that could affect millions of people. America’s 1.5 million-plus charitable organizations face a “severe shortage of qualified fundraisers” that could seriously restrict their efforts to raise critically needed funds -- and impact millions of people served by them, the report says. 

“Giving is the lifeblood that nourishes the work of nonprofits in this country,” said Derric Bakker, president of consultancy firm DickersonBakker (www.DickersonBakker.com) that conducted a comprehensive nationwide survey of nonprofit leaders and fundraising professionals. “Quality fundraisers are vital to keeping these organizations healthy and growing.”

America’s nonprofit fundraising industry is colossal. Total charitable giving from all sources totaled nearly $450 billion in 2019. The sector contributes approximately a trillion dollars to the US economy each year, which amounts to almost 6 percent of total GDP.

With demand for talented fundraisers outstripping supply, recruitment will “almost certainly only get worse as the economy improves” post-pandemic, says the North Carolina-based agency’s report, cautioning that “good fundraisers are extremely hard to come by.”

Nonprofits need to be “more creative and deliberate” about growing their talent pools by searching for cause-driven professionals with experience in related fields such as sales and marketing, the report suggests.

The national survey found:

  • Turnover of fundraising staff is a persistent problem.
    More than one in every four of the fundraising pros surveyed had been in their current job for 18 months or less. Nearly two-thirds of the nonprofit organizations surveyed said they experienced some level of staff turnover in their fundraising department within the last two to three years, with smaller nonprofits particularly impacted.
     
  • Nonprofits are struggling to fill open fundraising positions.
    Nonprofits are looking hard to hire fundraising talent, with three in every 10 of those surveyed reporting current vacancies in their teams -- mostly in major gift fundraising, but also in the “top job” often referred to as chief development officer. A whopping 84% of nonprofits surveyed said they’re struggling to find qualified candidates, with almost half saying it’s “extremely challenging or nearly impossible” to find the right fit.
     
  • CEO engagement in fundraising is essential.
    The more the CEO and his or her board members are involved in fundraising efforts, the greater the likelihood of success. Fundraisers surveyed gave their CEOs high marks for speaking at events and gatherings, but lower grades for engaging with major donors and actually asking them for donations.
     

“This may be the first study to show real correlation between CEO engagement and overall fundraising performance,” says the report. “Most CEOs don’t come into their roles with much fundraising experience. Many find it a challenge.”

The report continues: “(Nonprofit organizations) would be well-advised to invest in providing their CEO with training and coaching to help them become more effective in fundraising.”

The full report can be viewed at https://dickersonbakker.com/nonprofitstaffingstudy/.

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