Not unlike the often-misused term of the word “marketing” versus “sales,” the world of fundraising is often diluted within or combined with the term “development.” Many people who are unfamiliar with the world of nonprofit organizations might make this simple assumption.

As a critically acclaimed author and educator who has been working in the nonprofit sector for over 10 years, Pat Bobker knows the intricacies of — and distinctions — fundraising and development. She goes over the key differences between these two terms.

Basic Definitions

As with any industry or sector, nonprofit professionals have their own dictionary of terms, acronyms, and industry jargon.

In some ways, these terms can be interrelated, but there are also significant differences and distinctions that are helpful to observe. Whether you are a donor, nonprofit professional, or volunteer, it can be extremely useful to know the difference. Development is the process of creating and enhancing relationships with donors, while fundraising is solely about income generation.

What is Development?

As Pat Bobker explains, development is a professional discipline with explicit guidelines and protocol; it involves the full gamut of revenue-generation, starting with sound strategic planning, membership growth, community partnerships, event-planning/execution, donor relations, and yes – fundraising, too! In short, the expansive and multi-faceted pizza of development involves one single slice that is fundraising.

Development is more about creating awareness and revenue streams, than it is about buying a recognition opportunity, or a ticket to an event. It also engages volunteers, including alumni, board members and other friends, giving them an avenue for involvement. In many ways, “giving” in this way implies not expecting anything in return. Development is also about building and nurturing life-long relationships between the donor and the organization, which is at the crux of carrying out the mission.

What is Fundraising?

On the other hand, fundraising focuses on the “now.” Fundraising often describes an activity that is “transactional” in some way. Pat Bobker’s knee-jerk reaction about what constitutes a fundraising initiative from her varied experience includes wine-tasters, ice cream socials, art walls, contests, dinners, picnics and other outdoor events—the list is endless. It is important to note that not all fundraisers need to be events, as crowdfunding and letter-writing campaigns also have their place.

One of the primary reasons that people find it hard to differentiate between the two is that fundraising is “front-facing” (and is what a vast majority of the population see), while development is the ‘back-end’ (what nonprofit professionals see). Fundraisers relate to by the public, while development tends to happen behind closed doors.

Pat Bobker’s Final Thoughts

Development professionals know that fundraising is significant, but that it is just one spoke in the wheel of nonprofit success. As a point of career advancement, development professionals should take great effort to have their peers understand that development professionals do much more than ask for money. In the same sentiment, fundraisers are not necessarily event planners, campaign managers aren’t necessarily endowment officers, and grant writers aren’t necessarily speaking experts. But as Pat Bobker explains, all these aspects and more encompass the pithy job description in nonprofit development.

Few professionals can be great at all these things, as Pat Bobker explains that it took her decades and massive amounts of dedication and flexibility to master. Knowing the distinction between development and fundraising will help you better navigate your role in a nonprofit, as a volunteer, or as a donor.