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Directors of Fund-Raising

History

Charities have evolved from local ventures in the early 1900s to national organizations in the 1930s. During this time, the job of professional fund-raiser became more prominent in this country alongside the adoption of fund-raising techniques still in use today. These include form letters, celebrity endorsements, and time-limited campaigns.

In 1902 Frank Pierce raised $270,000 over a two year period for a building in Washington, D.C. for the YMCA. When the project needed $80,000 more, the YMCA sent in Charles Summer Ward to help. The two created the YMCA School of Fund-Raising. 

They were the first individuals to hire a publicist to publicize their campaign as well as the first to use advertising paid for by a corporate sponsor. They were also the first to realize that a short term fund-raising campaign would get more publicity than a long-term campaign, inaugurating a 27 day limit on a fund-raising measured by a campaign clock or thermometer. The campaign worked, and YMCAs throughout the country called on Pierce and Ward to help raise funds. By 1913, they had successfully raised $4 million for a YMCA in New York City.

Eleanor L. Brilliant, a historian for the United Way noted that while fund-raisers existed before World War I, they mostly dealt with wealthy people capable of making large donations. After the war, fund-raisers started to ask lower and middle class individuals for aid. After a 1929 court decision said that corporations could deduct charitable contributions from their corporate income taxes as business expenses, many businesses began to give more as well.

As new national non-profit organizations sprang up, demand for fund-raisers increased. In between 1919 and 1922 alone, the National League of Girls’ clubs, the Child Welfare League of America, the American Federation of the Blind, Big Brother and Big Sister Federation, and the Jewish Welfare Board all started.

Today, fund-raisers are a prominent part of the non-profit world. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2015 there were 62,720 fund-raisers in this country.