How Philanthropic are Fundraisers?

Published by Joe Matassino on

How can I ask others to give to a cause I believe in, if I do not give to it myself?” responded one fundraiser.

surveytimeI give “to support the mission and to be a role model to other employees and donors…” responded another.

In Daryl Upsall’s ‘rant’ on 20 November, 2014 ‘Give or get out…of the profession that is!’ he questions the differences between North American and European fundraisers. Indicating, that perhaps, North American’s are more philanthropic then our counterparts in Europe.

I believe we, as fundraisers, can redefine the public’s perception of what it means to be a philanthropist.

We know that the word Philanthropy means ‘love of humanity’, and a philanthropist is one who practices philanthropy. This encompasses more than just our wealthy donors, don’t you think?

It seems that everyone who cares enough to be a donor should be considered a philanthropist, including the fundraisers. I’ve discovered that we are a very generous bunch! I know this because I asked nearly 100 fundraisers of the Association of Fundraising Professionals Delaware, Brandywine Chapter about their philanthropic practices. You can take the survey below.

Their responses were consistently interesting, sometimes surprising, and most definitely inspiring.

My fellow fundraisers are, as it turns out, altruists. Which according to the ‘Seven Faces of Philanthropy’ means that we are donors who give because ‘doing good feels right.’

When asked, “Do you make financial contributions to the organization you work for?” 77% of the respondents said yes, and they do so consistently. Of those, 59% gave more than $250 per year.

When asked why they give, almost every single person responded, because they believe in the mission of the organization and it was the right thing to do. Commented one, “I typically work for organizations with missions I personally believe in and find compelling,” continuing to say, “I’m a better fundraiser if I’m completely behind the mission.

When asked about their total giving to all charities, 57% gave a whopping $1,000 or more every year. The recipients of their generosity were fairly typical of what we find in the U.S., the top three being organizations dedicated to Education 84%, Health Care 82% and Poverty 78%. Giving for International Affairs, as is often the case, was low supported by only 15%. Interestingly Religion, at 57%, was well below other statistics for American donors.

Chart_Q3_141115-2Most surprising, were the responses to legacy giving. 16% of the respondents have made a legacy gift to an organization they’ve worked for. That’s admirable but, if they hadn’t already made a legacy gift, an amazing 31% said they would consider doing so! We spend a great deal of time identifying and cultivating potential legacy donors, when maybe that donor is sitting at the desk right next to you. As one respondent said, “It makes sense to continue the legacy of the organization I have worked so hard for.”
It isn’t only money that fundraisers donate, but also their time; 80% are active volunteers in their communities with 56% donating more than 50 hours of their time each year.
Fundraising is not easy work. We give our blood, sweat and tears to the organizations we work for. How do you think all those fundraising events happen? They happen through a lot of sweat, and unfortunately sometimes tears.

Sweat equity is MORE than enough contribution,” said one. While I’m sure many others feel the same way, the majority of respondents to this survey indicated otherwise.

Despite all that is contributed, 20% still feel they need to do more and wish they could, but for financial limitations. The desire is there, but not the means. That’s the fundraisers’ altruistic motivations coming through again. No doubt, that when their circumstances change these fundraisers will also be donating because it feels like the right thing to do.

So yes, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and all those donors on Forbes biggest givers list will be remembered for their philanthropic contributions to the world, but shouldn’t you, the fundraiser, be considered a philanthropist in your own right? I think so, and I ask you to share that with the world.

A small group of fundraisers in the U.S. took this survey, and now it’s your turn. Regardless of whether or not you give, please contribute to our data by completing one of the anonymous surveys below before 31 December, 2014.


Hajj-Survey North American Fundraisers Survey


Fundraisers Outside of North America Survey 



This statistics for this article were taken from a survey initially sent to 170 members of the AFP Brandywine Chapter in Wilmington, Delaware, which had an unbelievable 57% response rate. A BIG thank you to all of my AFP peers for supporting me and participating so enthusiastically!

Joe Matassino

Joe Matassino

Joe's sole purpose in working for the nonprofit sector has been to leave a permanent, visible impact on our world. After spending more than 20 years in smaller, grass-roots nonprofits, he took a leap in the world of higher education and is currently the Director of Sponsored Research and Foundation Relations for Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania.


Liz Feinberg · December 2, 2014 at 01:05

Nice Joe. Thanks for sharing this.

    Joe Matassino · December 2, 2014 at 02:13

    Thanks Liz!

Ronald Holmes · March 2, 2015 at 06:54

Truly how can you lead a fundraiser if you yourself can’t share what you have! Great Job on this article!

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