Hitting Where It Hurts: When Fundraisers Leave

What’s a nonprofit to do about employee turnover?

Some nonprofit employees can seem like rolling stones. They come in, work for a few years or less, and leave to other opportunities. Why are employees—particularly fundraisers—“gathering no moss”? Can organizations effectively quell the revolving door trend?

The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that fifty percent of chief fundraisers plan to leave their jobs within two years. Forty percent are thinking about leaving fundraising entirely. “Too many organizations lack a culture of philanthropy, which means that development directors don’t have the conditions they need to succeed,” Marla Cornelius of CompassPoint said. “It’s a vicious cycle.”

2,700 directors were surveyed about the challenges they face in top fundraising positions for the report Underdeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising. The research revealed about half of the development directors surveyed expect to leave their positions, one-third of executive directors reported being “satisfied” with development performance, and the median vacancy of a position was six months.

Gainfully employed professionals typically give 3 reasons for why they would change employment: for better compensation/benefits, for a better work/life balance, or for greater opportunities for advancement. The reasons professionals actually change employment: for
better leadership from senior management, greater opportunities for advancement, and better compensation/benefits.

Building a strong nonprofit that avoids the revolving door syndrome comes down to selecting the right employees. Provide good job descriptions so candidates know exactly what to expect. Make sure you are reaching a large pool of qualified candidates, and hire only the best—even if it takes a little longer. Be absolutely clear as to the standard of performance that is expected. And, live up to your end of the bargain.

Additional reading:
5 Tips for Hiring a Director of Development

Thanks to James Zackal/ThirdSector Today
Edited for length

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