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 is the principal consultant and director of GivingThree LLC (a consulting firm for the nonprofit sector). He is a fundraising expert with broad knowledge and experience. However, his specialties include board development, strategic planning, and career coaching.

Additionally, he is Vice President of Institutional Advancement for the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS). In this role, he oversees the KCTCS Office of Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement and the KCTCS Office of Grants and Sponsored Programs. With 16 colleges and more than 70 campuses, KCTCS is the Commonwealth’s largest postsecondary institution. He also serves as executive director of the KCTCS Foundation, Inc.

Mohler most recently served as assistant vice president for development at Eastern Kentucky University. His background also includes key advancement roles at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Cedarville University, and The University of Texas at Austin.

He earned a master’s degree in philanthropy and development from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota and a bachelor’s degree in communication arts from Cedarville University. He is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) and has earned the Advanced Certified Fundraising Executive (ACFRE) credential. He currently serves on the ACFRE Board.

Mohler was named to Charlotte Business Journal's "Forty Under 40" in 2013 and the AFP Bluegrass Chapter honored him with their Exemplary Service Award in 2015.


  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?

%d bloggers like this: