If I meet another recent college graduate who tells me he wants to go into a policy career, I’m going to curl up in the fetal position and weep uncontrollably.
It’s not that I don’t want to see more policy talent in the free-market movement (I do!); it’s just that I really, really, really want to see more fundraising talent.
And why? Because that’s our biggest talent need right now.
Case in point: nearly half of our current searches are for fundraising positions.
And if you take an historical look at Talent Market’s searches spanning 6 1/2 years, you’ll see that more than a third of them have been for fundraising-related roles. Trailing at a distant second is communications/media roles (23%), followed by executive leadership positions (12%). What about policy roles, you ask? 10%.
So, why is there such a large unmet need for fundraising talent? I think there are several factors at play.
1. The free-market nonprofit sector is not a common career path – Let’s face it: we’re in a niche. And a pretty small niche at that. Many people have never considered a nonprofit career path, and even fewer have considered the free-market nonprofit path. Compounding this problem is the fact that many who are philosophically aligned choose politics — a much more visible option.
2. Fundraisers don’t get the headlines – Even when people choose the free-market nonprofit career path, fundraising is not a common choice. This is partially an awareness problem; fundraisers typically aren’t interviewed on the national news, nor are they writing op-eds in the Wall Street Journal. So, when individuals come into our world, they naturally think, “I want to be like Michael Cannon” or “I want to be another Vinnie Vernuccio.” It’s rare for them to know enough to say, “I want to be like Daniel Erspamer.”
3. We are IDEAS people! – Many of the individuals drawn into our world want to analyze and proselytize the ideas — not fundraise for them! The irony, of course, is that understanding the ideas and connecting intellectually with donors are critical components of a fundraiser’s job.
4. Selling ideas is challenging – Many fundraisers — even if philosophically aligned — would rather take on an easier “sell” such as the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, or their alma mater. Sell liberty? Unless it has a nationally ranked football team, I’ll pass!
5. Working for Peanuts is Nuts – Finally, there is often a salary disconnect. Organizations are sadly mistaken if they think successful fundraisers will flock to their below-market-rate fundraising openings simply because they love liberty. We all have to pay rent, put food on the table, and put kibble in Fido’s bowl.
But enough about the problem! Next month we’ll tackle solutions to this dearth of free-market fundraising talent.