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April 13, 2021
Survey: Nonprofits Not Doing Enough for Young Fundraisers

February 20, 2021 — Nonprofits are doing little to support and retain their young professional fundraisers, and many of those young professionals anticipate leaving their current position in search of more experience elsewhere, according to a recently completed survey.

To gain experience, more young professionals (YPs)—age 35 or younger—expect to leave their current organization (38%) than expect to be able to move within their current employer (31%), according to the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) 2020 Compensation and Benefits Report, released earlier this month.

Two-thirds of young professionals (66%) want to move organizations in order to improve their leadership skills for fundraising, and 58% want to gain skills in managing a team, the survey found.

Just 40% of young fundraising professionals reported that their workplace offers any of four programs or approaches that have been shown in other industries to assist career advancement, improve employee engagement, and promote teamwork. Those programs are:

  1. A specific talent development or leadership development program, strategy, or initiative.
  2. Training on working with people of different generations.
  3. Affinity groups within the organization related to any type of identity or interest, such as age, ethnicity, “green workplace,” bike to work, etc.
  4. A formal mentoring program for people new to fundraising.

Findings were based on a survey with 4,659 responses, of which 1,059 were age 35 or younger.

Just 30% of YPs surveyed said they have mentors in their current workplace. In contrast, eight in 10 respondents (81%) said they have someone they would consider a professional role model, almost half of whom they met at a previous organization.

As part of the survey, YPs were asked what part of their job they were least prepared to do. More than 63% identified at least one aspect of their work:

  • 54% identified a fundraising-specific task, such as “Asking (includes making direct asks of individuals and corporations),” which was identified by 16% of all respondents to this question, and “Major Gifts,” identified by 14%. The third-most frequent area in fundraising was strategic planning/pipeline development, mentioned by 9% of those who answered this question.
  • 30% mentioned general business operations as an area where they would like more preparation. The most frequent topic in this area, mentioned by 9% of all YPs answering this question, was management/supervision. Other business skills mentioned included budgeting/finance/legal (8%), managing priorities (6%), and communications/media/public relations (3%).
  • The least frequent area for more preparation was in managing personal or organizational expectations. This included career advancement and transitions (5%), workplace culture (3%), and organizational lack of a culture of philanthropy (2%).

“Young professionals are the future of our profession, and their expertise, energy, and outlook can make a huge difference to the success of our organizations,” said Mike Geiger, president and CEO of AFP. “Yet, we are failing them, and in turn, hurting our organizations’ long-term success.”

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