For some reason, people in nonprofits often dislike to say that their job is raising money. So they use loads of euphemisms for it, many of which seem to me really weird. I’m collecting examples. Please send others!
- “Development“. This is perhaps the most frequent term. It’s bonkers because fundraisers aren’t in charge of developing the organisation: that responsibility is with the management team or board. Sometimes organisations let the direction of their development be by donors’ wishes – universities building new buildings or departments because a donor wants them are a common example – but surely that’s pretty bonkers too: how an organisation develops should be a function of what its beneficiaries/market needs and what gaps are left unserved by other providers. ‘Development’ is also really confusing in international development NGOs – everybody in those organisations works in ‘development’, so those organisations use that term to mean two completely different things.
- “Head of Philanthropy“. You may think that ‘philanthropy’ means giving money out, but nonprofits sometimes use it to mean getting money in! I really dislike fundraisers having this title as it implies that they think they’re in charge of your philanthropy. I once got approached by a fundraising foundation about it’s ‘head of philanthropy’ role, which I assumed meant ‘head of giving money out’ but in fact meant ‘head of getting money in’. The job of ‘giving money out’ was called ‘investments’: how they refer to actually investing capital before it is given out, I never discovered.
- Growth. Sure, you need money to grow, but you also need other things, like people and probably office space or equipment. You don’t often see the fundraisers arranging those other things, but this terms sounds like the organisation’s growth is entirely due to them! Fundraising is necessary but not sufficient.
- “Institutional advancement“. This seems to be an American term, but simply reminds of Napoleonic armies…
Why don’t they have job titles that reflect what they actually do, e.g., donor engagement, donor management or donor experience? That latter is my preferred term: businesses talk loads about ‘customer experience’, and having people in a nonprofit who obsess about the donor experience seems highly sensible.