Research & Reports

2017 Compensation and Benefits Report: 71 Percent of U.S. Fundraisers See Overall Incomes Rise As Salaries Remain Flat

(Arlington, VA) Seventy-one (71) percent of fundraisers reported increased income in 2016, even as overall average salaries remained generally flat, according to the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ (AFP) 2017 Compensation and Benefits Report.

The mean (average) salary for all respondents in 2016 was $70,256, a less than one percent decrease from the 2015 average of $70,880.

The median (middle value) salary in 2016 was $65,000, which is a 4.8 percent increase from the median in 2015 of $62,000.

The top 25 percent of respondent fundraisers in 2016 earned more than $86,500, and the bottom 25 percent earned $49,000 or less. Both of those figures are slight increases from 2015.

More than seven in ten respondents saw their income levels rise in 2016, the fourth consecutive year where that figure has increased. Sixty-eight (68) percent saw income levels increase in 2015, while 65 percent experienced income increases in 2014, and 63 percent reported increases in 2013.

“While salaries have generally remained static, I’m pleased to see that a large majority of fundraisers continue to see their overall incomes increase every year,” said Jason Lee, interim president and CEO of AFP. “There’s still a lot of movement of fundraisers within the sector as demand for fundraising services remains very high.”

The average U.S. respondent has worked for 3.2 employers as a fundraiser. The average number of years per employer (turnover rate) is 3.9, the same as it was in 2015.

Salary by Geography, Experience, Credential

As in past years, the survey found that location and type of organization continue to play an important role in determining salary. Within the six regions of the United States, average salaries for all survey respondents ranged from a low of $68,090 in the North Central area (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin) to a high $74,636 in the Northwest region (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming).

There is a strong positive correlation between years of experience and compensation. Fundraisers with less than 10 years of experience reported average salaries of $50,889 - $67,678. Those with 10-24 years of experience reported average salaries of $76,534 - $91.996. Those with 20 or more years of experience reported averages of $92,080 - $94,491.

The possession of a certification credential also correlates positively with salary. In the United States sample, CFREs reported average salaries more than $21,000 higher than the average for respondents with no certification. Those who hold the ACFRE reported average salaries more than $27,000 higher than non-credentialed individuals.  The following table shows that relationship.

For the second consecutive year, the gender gap decreased, though women fundraisers still make dramatically less than their male counterparts despite representing a majority of both AFP members (75 percent) and respondents to the survey (82 percent). The average salary of male fundraisers is reported to be $80,206. Females are paid an average of $68,060. In past years, the salary gap has traditionally been at least $20,000.

Nearly 20 percent of respondents indicated they entered the fundraising profession right out of school or college, a figure that has been growing slowly over the last decade. In 2005, just 11 percent of respondents came directly from school into the profession, while the grew to 13 percent in 2010 and 15 percent in 2013.

“We’re seeing this change in our membership every year, with more and more young people coming to the profession right out of college and possessing significant training, degrees and certificates in fundraising,” said Lee. “While some people will still continue to join fundraising from other professions, I’m proud to see more individuals setting their sights on becoming a fundraiser at an early age.”

Workplace Challenges, Satisfaction

The Compensation and Benefits Survey also asks respondents about issues in the workplace.

Insufficient staff personnel, competition from other assigned duties, and leaders who don’t appreciate fundraising were the three situations respondents reported as most problematic in doing their professional work. These have been selected as the top challenges for most of the past ten years.

Half of respondents (50 percent) plan to serve in their present position indefinitely. Twenty-one percent would like to move to a higher management level at work, three percent would like to have different fundraising responsibilities in their jobs, 13 percent would like to move to a different fundraising organization, and four percent would like to leave fundraising for a different field.

For the second consecutive year, the survey asked questions about respondents’ confidence in different parts of their organization with regards to fundraising. Fifty-six percent of respondents feel somewhat or very confident in their organization’s board member/leadership engagement in fund development. Fifty-nine percent of respondents feel somewhat or very confident that fund development, philanthropy and accountability are understood and valued throughout their organization, while 57 percent are confident in their organization’s overall fundraising program. These figures are very similar to the responses in last year’s survey.

When asked about diversity and inclusiveness in their organizations, 73 percent of U.S. respondents said they agree or strongly agree that inclusiveness is a priority. Eighty-five percent agree or strongly agree that they feel welcomed and a part of the professional organizations to which they belong.

About the Survey

A total of 1,738 AFP members in the United States submitted usable responses by the time the survey closed, a response rate of 7.3 percent. Respondents vary from year to year.

The 2017 AFP Compensation and Benefits Report is available free to AFP members while non-members may purchase the report for $79. The report provides information on how salaries differ based on subsector, organizational budget, geography, education, your years of experience and countless other factors, while also detailing fundraiser perspectives on retirement, challenges, keeping them inspired and other issues.

Also available are Position and Function Reports, which show how salaries compare by job titles and functions within a development office. These Mini-Reports are $9.99 for members and $12.99 for non-members.

The main report, as well as the Position and Function Reports, are available at the AFP Online Bookstore.

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