What’s in a (Fundraising) Name?

I read a lot about fundraising.  Too much, maybe.  But I’m fascinated by what my colleagues and other fundraisers are doing, what best practices are and what’s new and innovative in the field.  There’s not a week that goes by that I don’t steal something I’ve read or heard about it and put it into place in my shop.  Recently, I’ve begun to see a trend.

Names – what we call things – have been nagging at me lately.  It seems that more and more, though, I’m hearing “Fundraising” referred to as something to do with money.

The titles I’ve most recently seen – repeatedly:

  • Fund Development
  • Resource Development
  • Financial/Finance Development

These were in context of either Chief Development Officer or Major Gift positions or in describing departments as a whole.

Of course, you know how feel about the title “Annual Fund.”

When did we start sneaking money back into Fundraising?

I’d been in fundraising about 5-6 or years before I worked in a true development shop and I remember asking, “Why is it called development?”

And my mentor (a brilliant development person and phenomenal teacher of relationship-based fundraising) replied:

 “Because, by developing relationships with donors who support our organization’s mission, we’re helping to develop and grow the organization itself and the services we provide to those who need them.  We are not the mission, but we’re making the mission happen.”

This article from 2003 in the Chronicle of Higher Education says it even more clearly:

The time we spend cultivating or soliciting donors is fund raising; that spent aligning fund-raising goals with institutional planning and maturation is development.

Mark J. Drozdowski
“Development and Fundraising:  What’s the Difference?

In the Annual Fund, we have 1,001 different benchmarks – dollars, retention rates, renewal rates, acquisition percentages – pick one or ten of your favorites.  All important, all necessary.

But when we reduce the profession to a fund, or say that we are just “developing” that bottom line number, we are, in name, pigeon-holing ourselves into a limited scope.  And we’re telling our donors, our beneficiaries, our colleagues and our leadership and boards that we’re just about the bottom line.

If we limit ourselves to just developing resources or budget line-items, we’re missing the soul of the profession.  If it’s just about “fund development,” we reduce our important work to a transaction.

And transactions are much easier than relationships.  Transactions might hit the goal, but they don’t feed the hungry, educate the children, engage the community or ensure safety and security.

With apologies to William Shakespeare, in this case, a profession by any other name doesn’t smell as sweet.


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