Don’t let the money fool you!

publication date: Sep 12, 2012
author/source: Phil Gérard
Pay is seldom among the top five reasons fundraisers give when asked what motivates them in their job and what makes them stay. In employee surveys I have seen such top motivators as interesting and challenging work, good advancement opportunities, and a good working environment.Phil Gerard photo

Nevertheless, managers should not make the mistake of ignoring the salary issue. Money is still an important foundation. Employees must feel that they are compensated fairly relative to their responsibilities and performance.

Compensation in the fundraising profession and even within sectors varies. For example, the health and education sectors are competitive in salaries. That often pressures other sectors and organizations to follow suit. Organizations need to stay on the pulse of compensation and conduct regular salary reviews. We do not want to find out the hard way when people start leaving.

But to those colleagues who consider accepting a new job offer - beware! Sometimes the offer looks better than it really is!

It is crucial to look at the entire package when you're considering leaving a job for a better salary elsewhere. Monetary compensation is only one part of the package. Your current employer may have lower salaries but offer benefits that outrank the other offer.

Consider these five points when making your decision.


Many organizations do not have a pension plan or at best contribute a small percentage to an RRSP. Other organizations have defined benefit or defined contribution plans. The latter is becoming more common now, while the former is more attractive for employees because at retirement a fixed monthly income is guaranteed for life.

Some organizations ask their employees to contribute and match or double their contribution, while other organizations contribute 100%. That can make a big difference on your paycheck.

Organization-specific perks

Many organizations have their own unique monetary benefits. Universities and private schools often offer tuition waivers to faculty, staff, and their dependents. If you have children of university age, or even better, several children going to university at the same time, a tuition waiver can mean big savings for your family.

Think about what special perks you are currently enjoying at your organization and that only your organization can offer (gym membership, daycare, health spending account, paid Internet, computer, iPad, professional development) and how important those benefits are for your bottom line.

Extended health

Some benefits are less clearly advertised or perhaps buried in a policy manual with an extended health plan provider. Depending on the needs of a particular employee or her family, these benefits can translate into large savings. I have heard from colleagues who explained how their plan covers several thousands of dollars a year in services for their family member with special needs. It is worthwhile exploring the fine print. You may rely on such benefits and discover later that your new employer's plan does not cover these services or only a fraction of it.


The new job would pay $5,000 more a year but your vacation is down from five weeks to two. Some organizations may be less competitive in salary but their employees enjoy extra-long vacations. The monetary value of the vacation time plus the savings in time and expenses that working requires should not be overlooked.

And then of course there is a whole other point to consider - your lifestyle and wellbeing.

The "signature experience"

Again, we have to look at the entire package. In addition to the benefits there are things that cannot be quantified in dollars, like flexibility. Maybe your organization enables you to work a day a week from home (or always), or have a flexible schedule to accommodate your commute, day care or family situation.

A great article by Tamara J. Erickson and Lynda Gratton called "What it Means to Work Here" published in the Harvard Business Review discussed what not only makes people stay in a job and in an organization but also helps them become an engaged employee. The authors introduce the term "signature experience" - what sets the organization apart for you as an employee.

The article discusses the example of JetBlue Airlines. Competitive compensation was definitely not a strategy the organization could afford. Bigger airlines could easily trump what JetBlue could offer. Instead, JetBlue implemented a home-based ticket agent system to offer their employees flexibility, work-life balance and convenience. Professionals who chose Jet Blue as an employer were looking for this signature experience. For these employees it is likely that more than a cash incentive would be needed to recruit them to another airline.

So at the time of your next job offer, take a few moments to consider the whole package, including the signature experience you now enjoy. It is not just about how much we make and how much we take home but how happy we are doing it.

Philippe (Phil) Gerard has been a fundraising professional for 14 years in the community service, education and university advancement sectors.  His specialty is major gifts fundraising. An MBA with a human resource management specialization set him on the exciting path of fundraising talent management. 

He is a director of advancement with Simon Fraser University and teaches as an adjunct instructor in Georgian College's Fundraising and Resource Development Program. Phil is also the President of Gérard Consulting - Fundraising Talent Management and author of Phil's Careers Blog. His firm helps fundraisers find a great career and organizations find and retain the next great colleague. For more information, visit or

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