This post is a response to the Rogare report talking about millennial fundraisers and their tendency to job hop. It quotes Staying Power, by employee retention expert Cara Silletto. She sees this short tenure from Millennials as a trend to be confronted and dealt with.  She writes,”While mentorship shows personal concern for Millennials’ careers it is also important to provides formal development and training. Young fundraisers are eager to learn. Taking a caring and personal interest in their professional career can have a dramatic impact on their tenure.” OK seriously? This would be true of LITERALLY ANYONE.

Also according to Siletto, “Millennials have grown up in a world of instant gratification and quick rewards (ibid). This is what they know and the assumption from which they operate. By rethinking fundraising job levels and titles, providing more levels of advancement and decreasing how long it takes to award the next level of advancement, nonprofits could increase how long they hold on to that talented individual.”

Rogare’s United States of America, Critical Fundraising Report #3 concludes, “Nonprofit CEOs and senior leaders need to implement plans to reinvigorate their employee advancement and recognition strategy. They need to intentionally address their intention to professionally develop the abilities of their youngest staff and make it known that they personally care for the success of the individual fundraiser.

Finally, they need to encourage women, and racial and sexual minorities to apply for lower tenure jobs and open the ranks of the senior levels to diverse populations. By showing that they are serious about each of these measures they will be able to keep younger, talented and more diverse talent for longer. “

OK I will give you the fact that people DO want more continuing education. SURE, people want to celebrate the little wins. That’s what we found too. Titles are nice. Sure. As for the final conclusion? NOPE. James Green, you are wrong. This is why you’re wrong. Lower tenure jobs aren’t the answer. Most people I know want to stay at their jobs. Why would you leave a job, if it was a good job? It’s scary to find a new job. The uncertainty can cause massive anxiety. Bad workplaces can cause PTSD. Bullying bosses can cause employee suicide. It’s a catch-22. You don’t leave, you simply CANNOT AFFORD TO LEAVE unless it’s REALLY bad.

Rogare did not interview one millennial fundraiser for this report. They simply used data that was available about millennials in general. Which is another reason why they’re wrong.

This condescending and patronizing spirit is nothing new. Lady. Dude. Seriously. Stop. If you would like some REAL data drawn from OUR SECTOR, please see my research below.

Recently I put together some research with Bloomerang asking over 1100 people what they wanted from their work.

Are they planning to stay at their organization, based on how much they make? And what benefits would be meaningful? As you can see, the lower the salary, the less likely someone was going to be at their organization in two years. And the lower the age, the less likely people were going to be working at their organization in two years. In the chart below, people 20-30 were 55% likely to leave. People 30-40 were about 44% likely to leave.  We found that over half the people we surveyed said they did not have a good structure to address conflict at their workplace. If it’s hard to have those key conversations about salary-about discrimination- if we can’t talk about what is REALLY going on, is it any wonder that people are leaving?


What DID people want?

People said they wanted more time with their families and friends. They wanted more money for continuing education. They wanted more vacation time, more flexibility to work from home if necessary. They wanted more in salaries, sure, but what they want, really, is to be treated like human beings, with a life outside of work, with ambitions, and goals, that have nothing to do with your nonprofit.

They want respect. They want a better workplace culture that treats them like human beings instead of human resources.

Do I seem frustrated to you?

It’s because I am.

I am exasperated by what seems like a willful pretense of ignorance, an unsuspected moral obtuseness on the part of older nonprofit leaders- you know- the ones who set salaries and benefits for younger or lower paid workers.

Why is this such a hard concept for some people of older generations to grasp?

Well, everywhere you look, older people put millennials down. Protections that older generations had are something this generation has never had.


What’s really wrong here? Nonprofits being told to act like businesses. Under capitalism, we treat people like THINGS. Like resources, instead of human beings. We have a disposable culture of fundraisers. You know it’s true. If you DON’T know it’s true go read my link here for more proof.

Why?  Lack of accountability to KEEP YOUR GOOD PEOPLE. Who is watching the leadership to make sure they treat staff well? Who is watching the employee retention rate at these nonprofits?

SURELY, more than hand-wringing could be done?

Has anyone walked up to the person leaving and said, “No, please don’t go, we will do anything to keep you?”

Has anyone even tried to get to the person when they’re hired and asked them, “Now that we’ve got you, how can we support you in your goals in the next 5 years?” 

Why aren’t millennial fundraisers staying?

It’s not entitlement, prizes or not rising fast enough.

Excuse my bluntness. It’s your shitty workplace culture.

  • A workplace where a fundraiser gets harassed by donors and board and have the donors get away with it
  • A workplace where the reward for doing a lot of work well is, in fact, MORE WORK and when they fire someone they just give you more work to do, without increased pay.
  • A workplace where people don’t get enough time off to pursue their interests, have a baby, or appreciate that baby as a non-child-bearing parent, either.
  • A workplace where if you raise lots of money, you get put on the hedonic treadmill, and suddenly that is not enough, and they just tell you to RAISE MORE MONEY the next year, with no increased budget to do so.
  • A workplace where you have no rights. It’s precarious work. That means it might not be full time, you might not have health insurance. it’s at-will, if you speak out, you can literally be fired for no reason. Where’s your protection? 
  • A workplace that pretends it’s going to pay you well, then doesn’t. An interviewer says things before the interview like, “OK, we’ll give you $80,000.” Then after a day, they say, “Actually, make that $70,000.” Then after your interview, they say. “ACTUALLY, how about $55,000?” Bait and switch to get you to waste your time with a job that isn’t worth it. How can you trust any boss in the organization after an act like that? Won’t that weed out all but the most desperate and naive people? Is that who you REALLY want working for you?
  • A workplace that can toss you out as soon as you are done being useful, with no pension or way to live, simply because they feel no sense of responsibility for your wellbeing, or indeed, ANY employee’s wellbeing.
  • And then there’s the salaries.

Do you think your nonprofit wages are adequate? 

Let me assure you they are not. Please check out the graphic below from the National Low Income Coalition. It’s a map with the highest salaries required per state picked out in dark blue. For example, it costs $31/hr to live in California. The cheapest states are light blue. And Oregon, where I live, is somewhere in the middle. HOWEVER this chart is from 2017. That year it required a salary of $19.78 per hour to rent a two bedroom home. This also averaged out by state, and of course in metro areas it’s much higher.  Which, looking at Portland rents right now, is QUITE LOW and completely inadequate to actually getting a two bedroom apartment. We now have statewide rent control. But that’s a recent development, and the rentier class is still allowed to increase rent by 7% each year.

Now is it very plain to you?

Millenials aren’t entitled. They are simply realists. We have established that they are underpaid and deeply in debt.  They know the planet is dying.  So they live simply. They don’t have the hope of previous generations. Why should they spend time trying to work themselves to the bone to get another $1/hr raise?

Millennials see the world for what it is.

Why should they stay at a job, pay their dues, work hard for years when they have no protection? When the boss and the nonprofit don’t care about their struggles? Of course they will jump to the next job as soon as they can. They don’t owe you any loyalty. You haven’t given them a reason to have any. It’s not about a trophy. It’s about the ultimate meaninglessness of some stupid brass ring. What can you give them if they’re making $20/hr and it costs $25/hr to simply afford a one bedroom in your town and your nonprofit hiring team says, “we don’t negotiate salaries”? (A REAL THING a person I know working at a NATIONAL CHAPTER NONPROFIT heard a couple months ago). 

It proved a bitter disillusion to people who want to “make a difference” in this world that the nonprofits they work for, are not, in fact, interested in them as people but simply in getting the maximum work out for the minimum of money.

Given all this, are you, in fact, that puzzled by the other findings in the Rogare report? Stagnant donor retention rates and national giving levels going down? Why would that be?

Um, I don’t know. POSSIBLY because when people work hard and do well, you give them NO workplace protections, NO extra pay, NO extra vacation/continuing education AND give them so much work that they cannot have a life outside of it?

OF COURSE they are fleeing the sector! It’s what a sane person would do!

Do you want to stop the leadership crisis?

Do you REALLY?

Our research has shown you what people want.

Greater benefits, including more comprehensive healthcare, more time off, more flexible work, better ways to deal with conflict, AKA a stronger workplace culture that does not depend on overwork.

Basic acknowledgement of our humanity would be a really good place to start. 



Citation: Green, J. (2019). The current and anticipated fundraising talent crisis – A look at factors that contribute to the lack of growth of our profession, in: O’Reilly, B (ed). Critical Fundraising (USA) Report, v1.1. London, UK: Rogare – The Fundraising Think Tank.