This weekend, 4,000 fundraising professionals from around the country will gather at the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) International Conference to learn, make connections, and build skills.
Professional conferences can be tremendously rewarding. In fact, my career was dramatically impacted by a conference I attended as a graduate student. From a chance encounter in a conference session, I met the person who would hire me after graduation and even introduce me to the man who is now my husband.
But this time, my goal for this conference isn’t landing a new job — it’s taking time to pause and think.
My hope for the profession is that more fundraisers stay in the field and are fulfilled by the work.
Studies estimate the average length of tenure for fundraising professionals is 16 to 18 months. That’s not even two full fiscal years. That’s barely enough time to understand the organization and its programs, let alone build relationships with its donors. The cost to a nonprofit is high — they constantly have to hire and train, they lose productivity and morale, their donors don’t know who to call, and the fundraiser is exhausted. All too often, they leave the field entirely.
As reported in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, “Half of the chief fundraisers surveyed said they planned to leave their jobs within two years or less. Forty percent said they were thinking about leaving fundraising entirely.”
Since the nonprofit sector is dedicated to meeting the deep needs of the community, why is it that the sector cannot meet the needs of its fundraisers?
The same article discusses the inevitable fatigue that happens when a fundraising professional constantly works long hours with little resources and the frustration with a chief executive and board who neither understand nor support fundraising. In addition, we would add the toll of fundraising goals created to balance a budget rather than created based on actual data.
To my 4,000 colleagues in San Antonio — take the time spent at the conference to assess what it is about your organization that inspires you and what it is that drains you. Determine what you need to be successful and return to the office with the inspiration needed to make a change in your organization, rather than a change in your job. We will all be the better for it.
Article by: Kerri Laubenthal Mollard, Founder & CEO