From our President & CEO . . .
I have the opportunity this week to serve as the guest speaker for Jim Eskin’s Non-Profit Empowerment Workshop, held at Microsoft in San Antonio. Below is an excerpt from our interview about retaining fundraising talent.
Jim: What explains the high turnover rate in the fundraising profession?
Sally: Fundraising staffs are growing through the creation of new positions as fundraising becomes more and more important to the bottom line–not just in traditional charities, but also in higher education (both public and private), healthcare and traditionally government-funded research centers. This creates a market where there are more fundraising positions than experienced fundraising professionals, putting pressure on organizations to raise salaries to attract candidates. If a fundraiser is not happy in her current position, she can likely take another job making significantly more money.
Jim: In addition to competitive salaries, what can non-profits do retain good fundraisers?
- The CEO can champion a culture of philanthropy and the fundraising process. Building a common understanding, knowledge and language around fundraising takes effort throughout an institution, not just in the development office. I recommend that boards, advancement professionals, administrators, and other key stakeholders gain a common understanding and language around relational scalable fundraising, using a philosophy such as The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising.
- Provide soft skills training, in things like adaptability, cultural competency, empathy, intellectual curiosity, and 360-degree thinking (from the University of Southern California Center for Third Space Thinking). These skills are anything but “soft;” they are absolutely necessary for success in the workplace.
- Express appreciation. The value of voicing authentic appreciation is often forgotten, in both personal and professional relationships. Yet, it can be the oil that helps create joy and satisfaction in the workplace.
Jim: What’s a reasonable length of time for a fundraiser stay with an organization and not be viewed as a job hopper?
Sally: What I look for on a resume depends on the length of time one has been in his career. When one is in a leadership position, I look for positions of 7+ years. In the mid-part of one’s career, I want to see several 4-6 year stints with organizations. At the beginning of a career, I look for someone who is staying at the same organization for at least 2-3 years—even better is to stay longer and move up in responsibility at that organization.
Jim: What differences have you observed over the course of your career in the kind of people that are filling fundraising professions?
Sally: There are more people purposefully going into this development work than there were 30 years ago. Young people may be exposed to this profession through a parent or other role model or may get an internship in college with their institution’s advancement office. Nearly 300 institutions now offer formal education in fundraising, allowing people to come to the workforce with more education regarding this work than ever before.