What Are We Doing: Fundraising or Development?

Nametag
Image credit: Jennifer Davis Dodd

Since starting my job at Lakeland Regional Medical Center Foundation more than 25 years ago, I’ve been explaining what I do. That’s natural; since my title included “development,” and many people weren’t sure what I was “developing.”

Throughout my career, my titles have included “development” and “advancement” in several iterations (associate, director of, officer). To simplify I’ve usually explained, “I’m a fundraiser.” But since I’ve been at this for a while, I’ve realized there is more to what I do than fundraising.

Let’s start with some definitions from the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Dictionary:
Developmentnoun; the total process by which an organization increases public understanding of its mission and acquires financial support for its programs
Fundraiseverb; to seek donations from various sources for the support of an organization or a specific project
Fundraisernoun; a person, 1. paid or volunteer, who plans, manages or participates in raising assets and resources for an organization or cause. 2. an event conducted for the purpose of generating funds.
Philanthropynoun; love of humankind, usually expressed by an effort to enhance the well-being of humanity through personal acts of practical kindness or by financial support of a cause or causes

I’ve noticed that we can’t even decide what to call ourselves within our professional field. Click through these links to discover the various ways we describe ourselves:
Association of Fundraising Professionals
National Philanthropy Day
Association for Healthcare Philanthropy
Council for Advancement and Support of Education
Certified Fund Raising Executive

We can’t even decide whether we want “fundraising” to be one word or two.

What Really Matters

My dad used to say, “I don’t care what you call me, just don’t call me late for supper,” and I think that applies here. It doesn’t matter what you call it, what matters most is how you do it.

Development is about developing relationships on behalf of your organization.

Fundraising is a transaction.

If development were a line, fundraising would be a spot on that line.

Here’s what matters most: how do you treat your donors? Do you treat them as a means to a transaction? Or do you treat them like friends and family, like someone who has a relationship with your organization?

If you’re treating them like a transaction, they won’t stay.

If you build a relationship, they will stay.

So what do you call it at your organization? Development, fundraising, or some of both? And how do you approach it: like a transaction or a relationship?

No matter what your job title might be, don’t strictly fundraise. Invest your energies in developing relationships with the donors who support your organization.

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