How Many Fundraisers?

It’s my most popular workshop and sometimes that depresses me.  All those people, wanting to learn how to be effective in the One Person Development Office.   Do their organizations not get it? I wonder, even as I know the answer.  I’ve worked in and with enough of those organizations to know the answer:  No. It’s not that they are stupid or rotten or anything bad; it’s just that there really isn’t a broad understanding of what it takes to raise money.  One person, without reasonable resources just won’t cut it.

But making the case for additional development staff is tough.

I’m sure there is good, hard data out there that shows just how much adding development staff adds to an organization’s revenue.  And if you know where that is, please share.  I’ve read that in a mature operation, each additional gift officer will bring in five times his or her salary.

Perhaps, but that focuses only on the dollars raised right now.  Development is called development because it is so much more than that.

We’ve all heard the statement that fundraising is a marathon not a sprint.  Beyond that, dollars brought in is only a part of the race—number of donors is important.  Number of retained donors (that is, donors making second, third and more gifts) is even more important.

Getting and keeping donors takes a lot of work and a whole lot of time.  If you don’t have the luxury of spending time with donors, you are busy constantly reinventing the wheel.  Getting a donor; losing that donor; frantically getting a new donor.  And like the hamster running around his wheel, you probably aren’t getting very far.

Sustainable fundraising relies on having:

  • A broad and diverse funding base
  • A relatively large prospect pool
  • A way to continuously grow that prospect pool
  • Numerous cultivation opportunities
  • A strong stewardship program

That all means that you are fundraising in a number of ways, all of which require particular skills sets and knowledge.  All of which require time.  The one person office—no matter how skilled and smart and dedicated that one person is—cannot do justice to all that is necessary.

Organizations need to understand that it indeed “takes money to raise money.”  Among the most well-spent dollars would be those used to hire appropriate fundraising staff—and paying them a reasonable salary.


Janet Levine works with nonprofit organizations, helping them to build their resource development capacity (and yes, that does include grants!).  To learn more about her, her grantwriting class and Get Ready, Get Set, Get Grants the only grantwriting book you really need, check out  You can buy the book directly at