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Is the Fundraising Industry in an Employment Crisis?

Production Solutions

Google News outlet, American News Report, featured this blog from Greg Albright, highlighting the employment crisis facing the fundraising industry and how conferences like the 9th Annual Bridge to Integrated Marketing and Fundraising can help pull us out of it. To read the blog on American News Report, click here.

bridge sessionIs the fundraising industry in an employment crisis?

I say yes! And so do many of my industry peers.

In May I attended a leadership conference for direct marketing fundraisers and the service providers that support their programs. As I attended the presentations and engaged in peer discussions, a disturbing theme became quite apparent: our industry is severely lacking qualified people to run and manage a truly integrated fundraising program. Additionally, we are facing a leadership deficit as the majority of senior fundraising executives are most familiar with traditional fundraising channels.

Fundraising has moved into an integrated world. Marketing and social media affect major gifts and grants, telemarketing captures sustainers, direct mail gets the most credit for planned giving income and email drives constituent engagement and online gifts. And don’t forget direct response television (DRTV) and SEO/SEM. Is your head spinning yet? All of these channels can work together in concert or, if left unattended, can send mixed messages resulting in a confused and unengaged constituency.

But what has our industry done to address this mingling of channels? Not nearly enough! Blame it on fear, blame it on lack of resources during the recession or simply lack of will, but our industry has not prepared the next generation of mid and senior level fundraisers to take a holistic integrated approach when planning their fundraising campaigns.

Case in point: The Direct Marketing Association of Washington’s (DMAW) most recent weekly email job listing had over 20 local job openings and another national job listing had over 45 openings. And which openings do I see running for weeks on end? You guessed it – positions for digital strategists, account managers and integrated program managers. There simply aren’t enough trained fundraising professionals out there with the integrated marketing skills to fill these positions.

2013-Bridge-photo-16-smallThis is the very reason the Bridge to Integrated Marketing and Fundraising Conference was born. Nine years ago, the DMAW and the Association of Fundraising Professionals DC Chapter (AFP DC) saw this “mingling of channels” coming and had the foresight to create a forum where marketers and fundraisers could educate themselves on the newest and most effective integrated marketing and fundraising approaches. Today the conference boasts over 70 different breakout sessions (with more than 30 sessions focusing on direct response, digital and integrated fundraising) attracting 1600+ attendees.

Hiring from the outside is one option, but it’s also important to invest in training your existing staff with the desire to expand their fundraising and marketing abilities. Attending conferences like the Bridge Conference allows entry level fundraisers to learn the basics, while seasoned professionals can build their digital marketing skills and learn how to integrate new channels into their traditional fundraising programs.

It’s up to us as fundraisers to consistently educate ourselves and seek out the knowledge that we need to drive our campaigns to succeed. Let’s get up to speed and lead the fundraising industry out of this employment crisis! Will we see your staff at this year’s Bridge Conference?