President's Perspective Blog

Telling Our Story: The 2021 Compensation and Benefits Report

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I’m always excited when we release the annual AFP Compensation and Benefits Report. Our survey is the baseline for data about compensation and benefits for the fundraising profession, but there’s also more to the research than just salaries. For example, you’ll find information about board leadership at different organizations, the size of fundraising staff and volunteer/giving ratios, how common is certification and challenges in the workplace. 

Every member of AFP will find something useful in the report—some data point, related to compensation or otherwise, that will help improve your professional experience. I encourage you to read our stories about the U.S. or Canadian data on the AFP website and then download the full report

For this year’s report, covering 2020, we focused on the impact of the pandemic on fundraisers, salaries and employment conditions. We can clearly see when the pandemic hit in 2020—salaries were actually up 4% after the first quarter of the year. But once the pandemic started, those salary increases stalled. In the U.S., average salary levels by the end of 2020 was basically the same overall as it was at the end of 2019. Canadian fundraisers saw a modest 2% increase on average.
So, you might see these numbers and think, 'well, the pandemic resulted in basically flat growth on average for salaries (especially when you factor in inflation), so it didn’t have that big of an impact.' But the average results conceal some dramatic differences in the experiences of members within the profession.

Almost one in five respondents—roughly 18.5%—reported a drop in compensation for the year, with the average decrease being $20,769. That’s a high average drop in salary for just one year. 

At the same time, 14.5% of respondents indicated an increase in pay averaging $7,885—so some members saw salaries increase despite the pandemic. 

In addition, some employers shifted more of the cost of health insurance to employees in 2021: 15% in the U.S. and 9% in Canada reported this change.

Plus, we all know colleagues and friends who lost jobs, lost loved ones and faced incredible challenges throughout 2020 because of the pandemic. We went through so much in 2020, with so many obstacles and so many different experiences.

But as difficult as 2020 was, the AFP Compensation and Benefits Report also shows a profession that grew and adapted and found new ways to find success. It shows us where we still have work to do—in pay equity, in workplace conditions, in educating our leaders about how to better support fundraising—but also chronicles some of the opportunities we all have at our organizations. 

That’s our story, told in our latest Compensation and Benefits Report: We adjusted and endured and continued to create impact—because that’s what fundraising…the IMPACT profession…does. We work to inspire people, even in the darkest of times, and demonstrate the impact we can have when we come together. 

Download your copy of the report (it’s a free member benefit) and read the story of fundraising—the IMPACT profession—in 2020. Use the data to improve your professional career path and your workplace experience. And know that AFP will be using the results to better provide programs and services to you and create initiatives and projects to advance our impact profession.

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Mike Geiger, MBA, CPA

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