Commission

Are you a fundraiser who works on commission???  Do you know any fundraisers who do?  I don’t work on commission personally, nor do I know any fundraisers who do, but I’m asking because of a conversation I had with a friend last month.

My friend works for a non-profit in more of an administrative capacity and has no direct involvement in fundraising.  We were talking about the occasionally difficult dynamic between fundraisers and other staff working for the same non-profit organization; how fundraisers are sometimes thought to be sleazy.  My friend mentioned that it had something to do with fundraisers earning commission off of what they raise.

My jaw dropped.  Commission?!?  Oh no no no… I don’t earn commission based on what I raise, and I don’t know anyone who does.  I have heard of commission-based fundraising, but I’ve never seen it in practice.

My opinion is that it’s unethical.  It leads to fundraisers motivated by what they will earn rather than what difference those funds will make to their organization.  It takes the heart out of the work and makes it about financial transactions.

It’s like when you go to a clothing store and can tell right away that the employees there earn commission.  They jump on you when you arrive, hound you while you’re there, and it’s all in their best interests, not yours.

Having fundraising targets you’re expected to hit makes sense to me.  Everyone has a job they’re expected to do and some work is more quantifiable than other work, but to me commission and fundraising don’t mix.

Plus, it’s considered a reason to think fundraisers are sleazy.  It creates a myth that all fundraisers make commission, and that leads to the complicated dynamic between what we do and what others at our organization do.  They make the difference and we earn commission.  But no, it’s not truly like that at all; we raise the funds to help them make the difference.  And I think that’s the way it should be.

What do you think???  Have you seen positive examples of commission-based fundraising?  Do you passionately disagree with me?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section, or engage with me on Twitter @fundraisermaeve.

Happy 50th post from What Gives Philanthropy!!!  Thanks for reading!

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past 6 years.  Click here to learn more about Maeve.

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