Why you should never pay fundraisers a commission

Pay fundraisers well, but NEVER pay a commission.

I became the highest-paid employee besides the CEO at my organization when I worked in major gifts.

Of course, I believe you should pay successful fundraisers very well, but you should never pay a commission.

Here’s why…

It creates a conflict of interest between the fundraiser, the donor, and the charity.

Imagine just this one scenario among many:

Johnny gets paid a 10% commission on everything he raises.

He has a visit with an extremely wealthy donor next Thursday.

On Tuesday Johnny finds out that his family’s minivan needs a major repair and it’s going to cost $5,000.

Johnny, like most people, doesn’t have an extra $5,000 laying around, but he does have a quick way to get $5,000.

Ask the wealthy donor for a $50,000 gift on Thursday!

Was that the best amount to ask for at the best time?

Heck no, Johnny just needed some quick cash.

When your compensation is DIRECTLY tied to the amount of money someone gives to a nonprofit, you’re putting the fundraiser in an almost impossibly difficult situation to navigate for the good of all parties involved.

Don’t put that burden on them.

If you’re reading this and you still aren’t convinced it’s wrong, here’s the final litmus test:

Would you be ok with telling the donor how you’re compensated?

I can’t imagine anyone would feel comfortable telling donors that 10% of YOUR gift goes to ME!

No donor that gives a $100,000 gift assumes that $10,000 of it should go directly to the fundraiser that helped facilitate the gift.

At several points in my career, donors asked me how much I was paid.

I always told them what my salary was and I never was ashamed to do so.

If you’re not proud of how you’re paid, there’s a reason for that.

Pay your fundraisers well, but never pay a commission.


Kevin Fitzpatrick is the owner of One Visit Away, a consulting business helping leaders of nonprofits schedule more and better visits with their benefactors.  Kevin’s goal is to help fundraising professionals constantly seek to deepen their relationships with their benefactors.  After all, you’re just One Visit Away from growing your mission and your impact.  


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