Opinion: Looking for a Career in Development in 2011? Good Choice and Good Luck!
If you work in the nonprofit sector, it's no secret that entry-level jobs are disappearing, training funds for staff are drying up, salaries are static at best, benefits are status quo, and the profession is undergoing change and evaluation. Fundraising professionals are discovering they need to develop broader skill sets. A recent Chronicle of Philanthropy article noted that recruiters believe “people skills” alone no longer make a fundraiser successful. He or she must now possess entrepreneurial ability and spirit; have cross-cultural and generational knowledge; and be strategic, analytical and technologically astute.
Penelope Burk, a Chicago-based fundraising consultant, estimates that replacing a fundraiser costs from 65 percent to 83 percent of that individual’s annual salary. Burk believes turnover will increase as the economy improves. In her recent research, 48 percent of 1,200 development professionals surveyed said they would leave their current jobs for higher pay.
Lisa Adams, director of graduate admissions at Bay Path College in western Massachusetts, says the nonprofit job market may be stabilizing. In Adams’ research, 34 percent of research respondents indicated they intend to create new positions in 2011. Many respondents also indicated that current staff would have to do more with less, a trend that might contribute to additional turnover in the profession.
According to career counselor Anna Whitcomb, the future is bright in the nonprofit sector. At CNNMoney.com, she noted that if you are older than age 50, being a nonprofit executive is one of the country’s top 20 jobs!
Someone looking for a position in the nonprofit arena needs to weigh the pros and cons. The pros are many and should be taken to heart:
- You can make a positive change in the life of thousands of people or just one.
- You can work with government, business and nonprofit leaders for important causes.
- You can follow a dream or passion about making a difference.
- You can work with many volunteers in the community and make new friends.
- You control the opportunity to believe in the mission of the organization you serve.
- Possible jobs span a variety of important industries.
The cons of the profession include:
- Many institutions do not totally support the missions they are supposed to support.
- Success is hard to measure and can be frustrating at times.
- The pay is typically at least 25 percent less than in the corporate world.
- More individuals than ever from the corporate sector are seeking nonprofit jobs.
- The nonprofit career path is typically not defined, and turnover is a problem.
- The culture of a nonprofit and how it is supposed to operate can be confusing.
I have been in the development field since day one of my career. It has given me opportunities to use educational experiences and a variety of skills. What drives me, and should drive you in this field, is the belief that you can make a difference. I want my children and grandchildren to see kind acts of philanthropy and the importance of helping those in need. It is never about you; it is about the institution you proudly represent.
As a consultant who interacts with many in the profession daily, I hope that future development professionals will be able to follow a clear nonprofit career path. Many individuals are landing positions, and jobs will continue to open as turnover occurs — development jobs typically have a life expectancy of 2.5 years at midlevel positions and seven years at more senior-level positions, according to Christopher Bryant of Bryant Group.
Of possible concern is that many professionals 50 years of age or older are finding it difficult or impossible to obtain new jobs in development as they are asked to leave positions because they "cost too much." Why pay less for a replacement employee with less experience to save money when your experienced professional can raise greater amounts of funds in the long term? The relationships and connections these individuals already have in place are extremely valuable.
In my opinion, the profession needs to do better promoting nonprofit career development and developing career paths for those who want to make fundraising a lifelong career. I love this profession and look forward to watching the next generation promote the ideals of philanthropy. For stability and long-term commitment to take hold, entry-level, midlevel and senior professionals need continuous education regarding career recruitment, retention, promotion and acceptance of career development ideas. Professionals need to remain in place longer, and both the institution and development professional need to make a long-term commitment to support each other. In addition, the issue of "transitions" needs to be addressed as many lack continuity.
Paulette Maehara, recently retired president and CEO of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, notes that fundraising professionals make a life by helping others to give — by educating and involving them in the philanthropic process. Although not the stuff of a child's dreams, she adds, fundraising does help create the dreams of our society and our world. Fundraising is an exciting, fulfilling and noble profession.
F. Duke Haddad, EdD, CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. In addition, he is also president of Duke Haddad and Associates, LLC, and freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the past 13 years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration, master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University in business administration, with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.