Retaining Good Development Staff

Heavy staff turnover can be costly, as any manager knows. This fact can be especially apparent when it comes to fundraising staff. Not only is the work they do very valuable, but also replacing them can be expensive, and the time during which they are gone can be a period of lost fundraising opportunity.

So, what can be done to hire, train and retain effective fundraisers?

Speaking during the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) International Conference on Fundraising, Penelope Burk, president of Cygnus Applied Research, Inc., said that much of the answer to that question lies in being aware of certain facts about fundraisers.

Her information came from surveys taken among fundraising employees of nonprofits. For example:

  • Why they chose a fundraising career. Most fundraisers entered the profession “accidentally” (i.e., through other work they were hired to do), rather than intentionally. Some take an opportunistic view, coming into the field as leverage to other jobs in the sector.
  • The profile of a loyal fundraiser (one who intends to stay). Key characteristics include a belief in the mission, having personal/family needs accommodated, being included/respected as an active participant in planning, creative discussion, working with a team.
  • Why fundraisers left their last position. Salary or increase in salary is always the primary reason why fundraisers left their last jobs or intend to leave the current one. Flexibility on salary plus offering benefits that fit the times is a first practical step to lengthening their tenure.

What are you doing to retain quality staff?

About Gary Coiro

Nonprofit & Church Leader Nonprofit Leader and Consultant since 2004, following 15 years as a pastor. Competencies include board development, fundraising, staff development and management, strategic planning, church work, Bible teaching, and capital campaigns. Currently consulting and serving on the Church Ministries Management Team for a large multi-cultural evangelical church.
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