Fundraisers have earned more in 2021 and anticipate higher salaries to come

Fundraiser salaries rose last year, from a median of $75,000 in 2020 to $78,000 in 2021, according to a new investigation by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. The increase is particularly notable since the upward trend in wages for years leveled off in 2020.

The February 2022 online survey asked 3,482 U.S. fundraisers about their employment status, compensation, and benefits in the previous year. Among other questions, the interviewers asked about the gender, race and ethnic composition of the staff and boards of directors of the respondents’ organizations.

A bright spot in the report was the high proportion of fundraisers (77%) who said they planned to stay with their current organization. Of those who remain, the majority (also 77%) said they expect to earn more in 2022 than the year before.

Many fundraisers sought new opportunities in the first year of the pandemic. Nearly half of respondents said they had sought or accepted a position with a new organization from March 2020 to February 2021. A further 8% said they had laid the foundation for freelance work during this time. The report notes that the average salary of fundraisers also increased slightly, from $88,421 to $89,799.

The booming job market in 2021 has pushed organizations to raise salaries to attract fundraisers to fill their many vacancies, says AFP President Mike Geiger. But that can change.

“That demand for employees has slowed down,” Geiger says. “There’s a lot of talk about an impending recession.” Fundraisers have a reputation for switching jobs, but Geiger says a bleaker economic outlook might persuade them to stay put, at least in the short term.

The gender pay gap persists

As in previous surveys, the report found a substantial gender pay gap among fundraisers. Men earned an average of $107,433 while women’s average salaries were $86,939. Based on these simple averages alone, male fundraisers earned 24% more than female fundraisers in 2021.

The stubbornness of this wage disparity underscores the work that remains for nonprofit organizations. “Have we, as an industry, done a good enough job? I think the answer is no,” says Geiger. “If we had done a good enough job, we would have parity.”

Fundraisers are approaching parity when comparing the median salaries of non-white and white fundraisers. The 359 respondents who identified as Hispanic, Black, Indigenous, Asian or of color earned a median salary of $79,000. That was slightly lower than the median salary of the 2,054 non-Hispanic white respondents: $79,625.

The situation is reversed when it comes to average salary, with colored fundraisers earning $97,070 compared to the average white fundraiser salary of $89,638. Keep in mind, however, that the number of white fundraisers surveyed on this question far exceeded the number of color fundraisers. This data differs from last year’s report, which showed those who identified as black, Indigenous or of color earned on average 10% less than those who identified as “white only”.

Geiger says future research should dig deeper into earnings patterns among the discrete racial and ethnic identities contained in this category.

Among other discoveries:

  • 38% of respondents said that at least a quarter of their organization’s directors were members of a minority group or a group that was underrepresented in leadership. In 2020, this share was 33%.
  • 26% of survey respondents said payments for their employee-sponsored health plans increased in 2021.

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