Most nonprofits lack fulltime fundraisers

By Todd Cohen

Despite dramatic growth in the number of fundraising professionals and in their skills, nearly two in three charities in the U.S. do not employ full-time fundraising staff, a new report says.

And it says nonprofits that do employ fundraising staff tend to lean more heavily on other staff and volunteers to solicit contributions than do nonprofits without fundraising staff.

“The presence of a fundraising staffer is evidence that the nonprofit raises funds in a variety of ways,” says the report by the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

Still, says the report’s author, while nonprofits recognize the value of investing in fundraising staff, a second survey finds they are not investing in volunteer management, even though volunteers play an important role in raising money.

“Volunteer management really gets short shrift in organizations,” says Mark A. Hager, senior research associate at the Urban Institute.

With public support representing $1 in every $5 public charities receive, and $1 in every $3 received by charities other than hospitals, colleges and universities, most nonprofits have one or more people in a fundraising role, says the report, “Who Raises Contributions for America’s Nonprofit Organizations?”.

While two-thirds of nonprofits with less than $50,000 in contributions have no fundraising staff, most nonprofits with more than $1 million in contributions have more than one fundraising staff, says the report.

The number of members in the Association of Fundraising Professionals grew to 25,000 in 2001 from 2,500 in 1980, while the number of AFP chapters more than tripled to 157 from 37 in the same period, says the report, which summarizes a 2002 paper based on a 2001 survey of U.S. public charities with at least $100,000 in receipts.

Yet fundraising staffers do not handle all the fundraising in most nonprofits, the report says.

In fact, it says, executive directors, board members, volunteers and other staff at nonprofits with fundraising staff are more involved in raising money than are their counterparts at nonprofits with no fundraising staff.

“Clearly, the professionalization of fundraising has not removed the executive director from the limelight of fundraising duties in many nonprofit organizations,” the report says.

Many nonprofits employ part-time staff in a fundraising role, or hire consultants to handle fundraising.

One in six nonprofits hire consultants for fundraising duties, and 1 in 20 hire more than one, with the use of consultants most likely at charities with at least $250,000 in contributions.

Nearly 3 in 4 nonprofits use volunteers for fundraising, and while volunteers are not the main source of fundraising in the nonprofit sector, their participation is “noteworthy,” the report says.

Volunteers raise:

* No contributions at 27 percent of nonprofits.

* Up to 10 percent of contributions at 26 percent of nonprofits.

* 10 percent to 50 percent of contributions at 24 percent of nonprofits.

* Half to nearly all contributions at 12 percent of nonprofits.

* All contributions at 11 percent of nonprofits.

Only 8 percent of nonprofits hired a professional solicitation firm in the year before the survey, usually to raise money through direct-mail or telephone campaigns, and those that did tended to be more concentrated in the education field and less concentrated in the health field, the report says.

And nonprofits with fundraising staff are likely to have relationships with organizations such as United Way that raise money on their behalf, affiliations that “do not simply replace the need for fundraising staff,” the report says.

“When charities cannot commit resources to a fundraising professional, the chore falls to program personnel, executives, board members, other volunteers, and affiliated organizations,” it says. “However, when charities do hire someone to bring contributions into an organizations, these other constituents are still central in fundraising operations.”

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