Titles for Fundraisers Revisited

businessman sitting sofa question mark over headNot long ago I bookmarked a blog posting by David Lawson asking the question, “philanthropy, when did it become about fundraising?” In his post on Working Philanthropy, Lawson correlates the role of fundraising and a healthy nonprofit organization to the legacy of Steve Jobs. “Fundraising is a necessary part of philanthropy, but it in no way should define philanthropy any more than the marketing and sales department at Apple defines their products.”

This brings to mind my ongoing conflict regarding the use of professional titles for fundraisers. In a past post titled reconsidering the titles we give professional fundraisers, I explored the titles fundraisers use and the occurrence of personal pronouns for professional areas versus the ways donors and organizations refer to their fundraising practitioners.

“Professional titles (doctor, accountant, lawyer) brings with it connotations of trust, confidentiality, expertise, and ethics. I proudly wear the banner of ‘fundraiser,’ but know that this title is not fully descriptive of my profession and of my responsibilities.”

Nearly two years later and this issue is still front of mind. I find it reassuring to know I’m not alone. Since posting that original article, the search term “titles for fundraisers” has directly resulted in over 350 visits to this site. With all this latent curiosity, I wanted to give a little more attention to exploring available options.

Titles for fundraisers usually contain two or more elements from the following categories. Mix and match

  • Positional descriptions: Chief, Director, Manager, Associate, Assistant, Coordinator, Officer
  • Functional titles: Development, Advancement, Fundraising, Philanthropy, Strategic Partnerships, External Relations
  • Discipline details: Major Gifts, Principle Gifts, Annual Gifts, Leadership Gifts, Planned Giving, Campaign

Using these elements, the pieces for fundraiser titles that give me pause are the functional titles and the discipline details. The functional titles lack specificity. They are also not broadly recognized by people outside the main of professional fundraising. The discipline details, on the other hand, are overly descriptive and focus on the transactional nature of the position.

My ideal professional fundraiser title would include a positional description and some functional title that communicates an emphasis on encouraging philanthropy that is mutually beneficial to both the giver and the recipient. It would be nice if this title also reflected the importance of social investment, positive change, and ongoing stewardship. I still don’t know what that title would be.

Any suggestions?

About Benjamin Mohler

Benjamin Mohler, CFRE, ACFRE has a keen interest in understanding the connection between culture and the practice of philanthropy. His experiences working with international nonprofit organizations, extensive international travel, together with his graduate work at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and leadership roles with local nonprofits combine to produce his expertise in this area. He’s also a big baseball fan.

Mohler is the Assistant Vice President for Major and Planned Gifts at Eastern Kentucky University. Prior to his current role, he held key roles with The William States Lee College of Engineering at UNC Charlotte, Cedarville University, and The Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. He is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE), Advanced Certified Fundraising Professional (ACFRE), and serves AFP at an international level, including his current role chairing the publishing committee for the AFP Fund Development Series.

Comments

  1. Thanks for the shout out! I agree with you – titles need to make sense to our constituency. I do not think, for instance, many major gift prospects refer to themselves as major donor, right? Instead of fundraiser, what about director (or other position descriptor) of philanthropy?

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