Why is fundraiser turnover such a big problem?
We covered why fundraisers leave, what it costs to lose a good fundraiser, sometimes surprising good news and what it takes to keep fundraisers around.
You can see the webinar here, if you like.
I had already spoken out about most of what we covered in the webinar. And that post received lots of heart-felt comments. I knew I’d touched a nerve.
So I think the topic is important enough to share again here with you. And I would love to hear from you – in the comments, or via email if you like – about your own thoughts or experiences. You can also read Zach’s take on it here.
Many of us in the nonprofit sector put ourselves last. The mission is everything, and we’re all just worker bees. Even worker bees need nourishment!
Some points from the Harris Poll
- This is a high-pressure, low appreciation career. (I know, you’re shocked!)
- Staff and board don’t understand fundraising.
- Fundraising work with tremendous pressure in tight timelines. (Stress much?)
- There is a lack of trust that hinders fundraisers’ performance and satisfaction.
- Too many organizations don’t have a culture of philanthropy.
- Fundraisers deal with poor management and communication.
- And there is not enough investment in fundraisers or fundraising.
All of this costs organizations in time and in money. There are many calculations for exactly how much money. Let me just say that it’s enough to hurt.
I hope it’s enough to spur change.
There was also some good news
- Fundraisers are driven by mission.
- Most are happy with their travel schedule and with the flexibility their organization offers.
- Many are satisfied with their level of independence.
- And they like their volunteers (excluding board members).
If you see some of the problems and some of the bright spots overlapping, it’s not just you. I’m not sure what accounts for that, either. But I think the important part is noting all this and then figuring out what to do about it.
In fundraisers, you should trust
Trust is crucial to happy and successful employees. If you want strong fundraising, hire good people… then trust them. Everyone makes mistakes. Mistakes are an important way to learn. The key is to understand what went wrong and share it – so that the whole organization is better for it.
Fundraisers should know their stuff. And then should be allowed to own their stuff. Don’t second-guess your experts!
People have people
Amazingly enough, many of us have families or other obligations.
As a sector, we need to get much better about recognizing that. Work shouldn’t be measured by hours in the office. Facetime is for video calls. Set goals, trust people to meet them.
Make people take their vacation. And build paid leave into your budget, please. An employee who sees that level of care will return the loyalty.
It takes money to make money
Cheaping out on fundraising gets you bad results. Pay your staff well. Invest in their continuing education.
Don’t make decisions about fundraising based only on what it will cost. You have to look at what it could raise. Just because email is “free” doesn’t mean you should abandon direct mail for a digital-only strategy.
And for heaven’s sake, please don’t buy the cheapest donor management system you can google! The money you spend on a good system will pay you back every day for years.
A culture of philanthropy is a thing
Yes, it really is. You can call it what you like, but an organization that is united behind welcoming people into the mission, capturing stories, and supporting fundraising efforts is one that will be more successful.
Silos are death. Don’t allow them to form. Fundraising is a group effort – even if non-fundraisers never ask for anything or even mention money, they can be tremendously helpful.
If your organization needs donated money, your mission includes philanthropy.
Match responsibility with authority
If you expect a lot from your fundraisers, they need the authority to make strategic decisions. Don’t cut them off at the knees! Set goals together, then give them what they need to get there.
Don’t expect miracles
Miracles do happen, sometimes. But not under pressure. Do you know how a new fundraiser feels when she’s greeted with, “Oh thank goodness you’re here. We really need money!”?
That quick glance over her shoulder? That’s her looking for the exit.
Celebrate miracles if they happen. But aim for steady, measurable success instead.
Fundraisers really do have a hard, but important job. The good news is that the more support they have, the better your whole organization will do.