Fund Times

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Turning Your Fundraiser’s Frown Upside Down July 9, 2012

Filed under: capacity,nonprofit leadership,strategic fundraising — fundtimes @ 7:02 pm

In the March 2012 edition of Fund Times, I offered some quick tips on how to assess your organization’s capacity to fundraise, specifically related to human capital.  But once you’ve figured out your staffing requirements, how do you retain high-quality development folks?

According to a recent blog post in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, the cost for nonprofits experiencing high turnover amongst development staff is incredibly high.  For example, the average amount of time that a fundraiser stays on the job is 16 months and the overall costs (both direct and indirect) of finding a high-quality replacement is $127,650.  Given the average salary for a fundraising team hovers somewhere between $110,000 and $125,000, the cost of development turnover is not to be taken lightly.

So how do you avoid fundraiser turnover?  Below are a few “do’s and don’ts” to help you maximize job satisfaction for your ever-essential fundraising staff.

  • Do: Clarify Roles – There’s nothing more frustrating for a fundraiser than to not know the extent of their job responsibilities.  Are they solely responsible for contacting potential donors or will the executive director share in this strategy?  Will fundraising staff be required to attend foundation meetings alone or will board members and/or program staff be involved?  As you may already know, fundraising is a true team effort so clarifying the role of your development team early on helps them to understand how best to rally their co-workers in raising much-needed funds.
  • Don’t: Undermine Fundraising Staff –  Since fundraising is a team effort, it’s important to support your development team in their endeavors.  From rallying staff to help stuff envelopes for your annual direct mail appeal to emphasizing to your program/accounting team the timeliness of getting required materials to development (e.g., project updates and monthly financial reports), having vocalized support from the executive director is critical to reducing a culture of departmental silos when it comes to fundraising.  After all, fundraisers are tasked with raising the very salaries of staff anyway so it pays (literally) to have a culture of “all hands on deck” ;).
  • Do: Show Your Appreciation – Contrary to popular belief, nonprofit employees appreciate a bit of praise every now and then.  Yes, those in the charitable sector are often there because they feel a personal connection to helping those in need, but this does not give leadership carte blanche to forego a fist bump every now and then, especially with fundraisers.  Raising money is a stressful task to begin with so telling your fundraising staff how much you appreciate their work will likely go a long way in fueling job satisfaction.
  • Don’t: Skimp on Professional Development – As a self-professed overacheiver myself, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the importance of encouraging your fundraising staff to pursue additional training in other revenue generating strategies.  Local organizations like The Foundation Center, Maryland Nonprofits, and the Center for Nonprofit Advancement provide a wealth of both free and discounted classes related to fund development.  Membership organizations like the Association of Fundraising Professionals also offer peer networks for your development staff to both share and gather best-practice techniques on the art of fundraising.  Indeed, investing in your current fundraising staff will certainly prove to be much cheaper than having to hire new people.

What are your thoughts on how best to retain your fundraising staff?  Are you finding it harder or easier to keep your development folks in this economy?

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