I received an email the other day from a man who was in a fundraising class I taught a few years ago. I remember well his enthusiasm for fundraising as he planned to transition from a career in the aerospace industry to the nonprofit arena. He was already an active volunteer and was passionate about helping nonprofit organizations raise funds. That is what led him to my class.
Today he has completed his education and volunteers with a program for which he helped secure funding. But he has not yet been hired as a fundraiser. Why? My sense is that many nonprofit organizations today want to hire twentysomethings. After all, they know social media and can quickly build an active presence on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, or whatever the latest social media fad is.
And that’s all good to have. But the reality is, every nonprofit desperately needs donors who are sustainable. Who are your best donors? They are often older, with children – or even grandchildren – who are in their 20s. They may appreciate a fundraiser who, like them, is experiencing the shift in priorities that comes when thinking about retirement is more than an abstract issue, or understands health concerns because they are dealing with some of their own.
I’ve been told by some hiring managers that they want someone younger because an older fundraiser may not be planning to work for many more years. That’s true. They may only last five to 15 years before they retire. But, think back to the twentysomethings you hired in the last three years; how many are still with you? A loyal 50-something may be more valuable to you than an energetic twentysomething who is looking for the next step on his or her career path.
I am not against hiring young fundraisers. I know some fantastic younger fundraisers and I have had many in my classes who I’d gladly hire. But I urge you to not discard a truly qualified candidate just because he or she is on the other side of 40 or even 50. These folks come to the field of fundraising having spent the life accumulating, and now they want to give back. They have life experiences that help them relate to your donors. They are passionate about the causes they support. In short, they will think more like and speak more like the people most likely to give you a donation.
And don’t think your older fundraiser will totally ignore social media. He or she is probably very active on the same social media platforms that your donors are, and will want to learn new skills –because they have the inquisitive minds that come with having been around the block a few times. They also know how important it is to develop philanthropic habits at an early age even if you don’t have a lot of money, so they will be committed to making sure you have a fundraising presence that stretches over all generations.
So be bold. Hire somebody who is older. They may just be the best fundraiser you ever had. And they’re probably going to be very loyal, as well – and employees loyal to the organization convey that in a way that helps build loyalty in the people who support you through their donations.
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