Research & Reports

2018 Compensation and Benefits Report: Average Fundraising Salaries Increase, But Most Barely Kept Up With Inflation (US Data)

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(Arlington, VA) Average fundraising salaries increased by 11 percent in the United States in 2017, even as 70 percent of professionals didn’t see increases large enough to keep up with inflation, according to the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ (AFP) 2018 Compensation and Benefits Report.

The mean (average) salary for all respondents in 2017 was $77,862, an increase of 11 percent from the 2016 average of $70,256.

The top 25 percent of respondent fundraisers in 2017 earned more than $91,813, and the bottom 25 percent earned $50,000 or less. Both of those figures are increases from 2016.

However, with the rate of inflation in the United States at 2.1 percent in 2017, most respondents saw their salaries either fail to keep up with inflation or actually fall behind. More than two in ten respondents (21.2 percent) saw no increases in income, while 5.5 percent experienced a cut in pay. Income rose from 1 percent to 3 percent, or right around the rate of inflation, for 43.5 percent of survey participants.

Only about three in ten respondents (29.7 percent) reported 2017 compensation that was 4 percent or more than what they earned in 2016.

“Large increases in average salaries can mask underlying challenges that many fundraisers are experiencing,” said Mike Geiger, MBA, CPA, president and CEO of AFP. “It’s great to see that for those who experienced increases in salary, those increases were very strong and tended to drive the overall survey results. But the reality is that close to three-quarters of respondents saw increases that barely kept up with inflation—or didn’t at all—reflective of the tough financial environment in which many charities remain.”

The 2018 AFP Compensation and Benefits Report is available free to AFP members on the AFP website. Non-members may purchase the report for $79 here:

Salary by Subsector, Geography, Credential

The 2018 Compensation and Benefits Report analyzed salaries based on several different factors and characteristics, including subsector. Professional fundraisers earn more when raising funds for higher education and “think tanks,” and less when working for social services charities or for arts organizations. The range of compensation in all types of organizations is wide, but most have averages that congregate between $60,000 and $80,000. In all subsectors, the top five percent of earners receive significantly more. For 11 of the 18 types of organizations in this study, people whose compensation was higher than 95 percent of the others in the same subsector received twice or more than the average. 

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 $71,187 in the North Central area to $83,394 in the West/Northwest region.

The possession of a certification credential correlates positively with salary. In the U.S., the average salary of CFRE certified fundraisers is $98,958, in contrast to the average salary of $77,862. There were not enough respondents with certifications other than CFRE to analyze.

Gender & Race

The survey continued to find that men’s salaries overall were often higher than women’s, with overall average salaries earned by men ($92,544) much higher than those earned by women ($74,519).

“A significant overall gender gap continues to exist when it comes to salary, but we need to learn more,” said Tycely Williams, chair of AFP’s Women’s Impact Initiative. “We need to dig deeper into the data to look at how salary is affected by age, experience, education and other factors as fundraisers move into different phases of their career. As part of the Initiative, our plan is to use data from the last several Compensation and Benefits reports to analyze trends, identify where the gender gap is most pronounced and take long-term action to close the gap.” 

The Report also found that the average salary of white fundraisers ($75,379) is 5 percent more than fundraisers of color ($71,327) in the United States.

“Race and salary is another issue we need to explore more deeply through our larger IDEA—Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access—work” said Geiger. “Plus, there are issues related to the intersectionality of race and gender as it pertains to compensation in our field. We need to better be able to serve fundraisers of color, and one way we’ll do that is by gathering more detailed data in next year’s survey.”

Workplace Challenges, Satisfaction

The 2018 Compensation and Benefits Survey also asks respondents about issues in the workplace.

Key job concerns include unrealistic performance expectations, high workload and insufficient staff support. Opportunities for advancement, increased variety of work and greater recognition of performance are also desired.

These areas of concern were also areas of concern in 2016. However, in 2017, four issues increased significantly in terms of concern and pressure: relationships with board members, relationships with other volunteers, variety of work, and fundraising career overall

Two-thirds of respondents said they have thought about leaving their jobs in the last year, though this percentage has not changed significantly from 2016. Almost (48 percent) looked for a job with another employer, and one-fifth (22 percent) sought a promotion with their current organization. The most frequently cited reasons related to career aspirations included higher salary (37 percent) and more interesting or challenging work (26 percent).

The average respondent has worked for 3.2 employers, unchanged from last year’s survey. The average number of years per employer (turnover rate) is 4.3, a slight increase from 3.9 years in the previous survey.

Participants averaged 4.7 years at their current employer, and 6.2 years is the average for the longest time at any organization. Average time at an organization rises as employment in the field rises: fundraisers in the field 10 years or more average 6 years in a job; those who began fundraising in the past 10 years average 2.6 years per job.

Fundraisers are positive about most elements of their work and profession. Fifty-nine percent respondents agree that fund development, philanthropy and accountability are understood and valued throughout their organization. Sixty-three percent of respondents agree that their board members are engaged in fundraising, though concerns about relationships with board members increased this year as reasons for declining job satisfaction.

About the Survey

A total of 3,037 AFP members in the United States submitted usable responses by the time the survey closed, a response rate of 12.4 percent. Respondents vary from year to year.

The 2018 AFP Compensation and Benefits Report is available free to AFP members on the AFP website. Non-members may purchase the report for $79 here:

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.

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