Are you retaining your (fundraising) staff?

This recent post on the 101fundraising crowdblog got me thinking about conversations I have had since starting my current position.  In most conversations about the particularly high turnover among fundraising staff, the focus is on the plentiful opportunities in the field, the tendency among many to leapfrog from one organization to another in one to two years and the innate pressures of having to raise money (especially in an economy like this one).  It is especially important that non-profit organizations focus on retaining their development staff members, as the role of institutional memory is critical to the long-term maintenance of donor relationships.  However, one point that rarely comes up is the responsibility that each non-profit has to retain its staff.  As I have been very pleased to gush to anyone who will listen, I-House has particularly impressed me with how staff appreciation is ingrained into the organizational culture (especially in comparison to where I have worked in the past).

A few I-House examples that other organizations could consider replicating:

-Mid-year and annual performance reviews
-A staff development line in each departmental budget to support professional development activities
-Quarterly stipends for perfect attendance
-Grocery store gift cards for the winter holidays
-Recognition of milestone staff anniversaries (people are known to work here for many years — my boss just hit the 25-year mark)
-The Dining Room (a special one for my fellow foodies out there or those who just don’t want to leave the building everyday to get lunch)

Of course, I understand that many non-profits cannot implement all of these initiatives easily or quickly, but I want to get professionals in our sector thinking about ways to be more intentional about staff retention.

Non-profit organizations should not feel like all staff appreciation activities are high-cost or that a simple “thank you for your hard work” cuts it all the time.  Young non-profit professionals like myself especially thrive on regular feedback and will work ourselves silly for our cause (as will most other non-profit professionals); regular acknowledgment and sincere appreciation help “grease the tracks” and keep staff members going when multiple projects are due or a big event is coming up.  While this is a decent start, I hope that you will encourage our organizations to become more intentional about staff retention.

How is your organization explicitly or implicitly encouraging you to stay there?  Did a former employer do anything that encouraged you to stay longer or to leave sooner?

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2 Replies to “Are you retaining your (fundraising) staff?”

  1. Dan – Thanks for these thoughts. So often people jump to the conclusion that fundraising professionals aren’t loyal and just looking out for themselves – rather than look inward t try to identify things that can help to retain staff.

    A biggie that I’ve noticed is unrealistic expectations – organizations expecting a new development person to bring their own large dollar donors with them. That’s primarily an education opportunity for us as development professionals and for the professional associations we belong to. Thanks for bring attention to this issue!

    1. Kirsten,

      I completely agree with you about unrealistic expectations in fundraising; that topic alone could be covered in two or three blog posts.

      Thanks for commenting!

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