I had the privilege of attending the AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) Think Tank a couple of weeks ago.
It was so cool to be among a group of great thinkers to talk and brainstorm about fundraising topics.
One of the things that came up was the number of people who are entering the profession without a solid understanding of our principles and ethics.
Lots of people take jobs in nonprofit fundraising and assume their sales or other corporate skills will transfer. While an awful lot of things are the same, some are very different.
Skills/concepts that translate:
- Marketing concepts are the same in for-profit as in non-profit. It’s about identifying target audiences, key messages, and consistent communication.
- Good leadership is always appropriate!
- Customer service works very well in the nonprofit. Donors, volunteers, and people in the community enjoy being treated well and sort of expect it from nonprofit organizations.
Skills/concepts that don’t translate:
- Working on commission is considered unethical among professional fundraisers. This is troublesome, because in the for-profit world, it’s a commonly accepted practice. In fundraising, the donor expects 100% of their gift to go directly to the nonprofit to help people. When a commission is given, the nonprofit doesn’t get 100% of the gift.
- In the for-profit world, it’s all about me, me, me. In the non-profit world, it’s about what’s in the best interest of the organization. In fact, there are times when a fundraising professional needs to step out of a donor relationship so as not to muddy the waters. For example, imagine that a particular Director of Development (DD) builds a very strong relationship with a particular donor, so much so that the donor decides to leave the DD in her will (not the non-profit). This puts the DD in a precarious ethical situation, because they are working to secure resources for the non-profit, not for themselves.
I’m sure there will continue to be many well-intended people who try to apply what they know from the for-profit world to the non-profit one. Somehow, we must find a way to education them about our industry’s ethics so they can be successful in their new jobs.