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Do Donors Care about Nonprofit Job Titles?

Fun story:

When I worked at a university, my colleague who handled stewardship asked to change her title from Assistant Director for Donor Stewardship.


Because we had a medical school and she kept getting calls for people who wanted to donate their bodies for the willed donor program. Clearly, donor stewardship meant something else to some people.

Those of us in the fundraising business strive to become Directors of Development, Chief Development Officers, and even Vice Presidents of Advancement. All impressive titles, right? Certainly, they are to us in the nonprofit sector, but what about our donors?

Dr. Russell James tested 71 different fundraiser job titles to see how donors reacted to them and has shared his findings. As a donor increases their giving, they expect more support, guidance, and assistance. If your job title does not align with their needs, then you have a problem.

Based on donor data and feedback, here are the six worst fundraiser job titles:

The common words are officer, advancement, institutional, development. What sort of person uses those kinds of words? Answer: An administrator.

Using them while communicating with supporters or donor prospects essentially tells them that their values, interests, or priorities don’t matter very much. Instead, what matters is the institution and its needs and priorities. As a result, they get in the way of fundraising.

Here are two of the top ten job titles Dr. James researched:

  • Director of Donor Guidance

  • Director of Donor Advising

Other considerations include having language around the advice or services that development professionals provide to donors.

  • I show supporters how to give smarter.

  • I help supporters plan out their gifts and the impact they want to make.

  • I meet with supporters like you to learn more about them and determine if our cause might be a good fit for them, from a philanthropic perspective.

Remember, your job title as a fundraiser is part of the first impression you make with a donor. Don’t be an administrator.


Michelle Crim, CFRE

Dynamic Development Strategies can help. We offer coaching, grant writing, and fundraising services for our nonprofit clients. We specialize in small to mid-size organizations because we understand your challenges. Please contact us for more information.

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