Should I Stay or Should I Go?:

career employee satisfaction fundraising leadership management nonprofit work life balance Feb 06, 2018


It's a big hairy issue in fundraising - one that's made up of a ton of other big hairy issues: time, money, engagement, productivity, training, management and culture.

Why should you care?

If you lead a nonprofit - money & time (and time is money!).

  • According to research by Penelope Burk, it costs a minimum of $127,650 to replace a fundraiser.
  • The average tenure of a front-line fundraiser is 2 years, but it takes at least 10 to 12 months for fundraisers to feel up to speed in a new role.

If you're a manager - you have the power!

  • 50% of employees who quit cite their manager as the reason.
  • Managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement. (No surprise: Engaged employees are happier and more productive.)
  • In short, great management makes all the difference,
  • But, nonprofits provide little to no training for fundraising managers.

If you're a fundraiser - you want to succeed.

  • You're driven by meaning & mission.
  • You get little to no training. (shameless plug: this is why we started Fundraisers' Monthly)
  • You'll get job offers immediately. There's no shortage of work for a fundraiser, but how soon are you really ready to change jobs?
  • It takes at least 3 years to see the results of your work. You'll see relationships you'd started begin to lead to gifts. You'll feel more confident in what you ask for and how you ask. You'll understand what real "development" looks like.

For me, I didn't hit my stride until year 5. It was then that I started closing multi-million dollar gifts. I finally felt balance and confidence with donors, within my organization and with the university.

In our coaching calls with Fundraisers' Monthly members, we've heard determined, hard-working, over-achieving fundraisers feel lost, confused about their place within their organization and frustrated about an unclear career path.

We've talked to managers and aspiring managers who feel powerless to change their culture, unsure of how much time to devote to management and unclear about how to actually be a better manager.

We've heard from nonprofit leaders that there's a shortage of good fundraisers, but, of course, a massive need for more and better fundraising.

What can we do?

Start a conversation: At a recent CASE conference, we were inspired by Deb Snellen, the Director of Organizational and Professional Development at the University of Missouri's Office of Advancement. Deb shared Mizzou's focus on employee-driven conversations, including a "Talent Review, " where managers and employees discuss thoughtful career questions like:

  • What would make your job more satisfying?
  • What talents are not being used in your current role?
  • What do you want to learn here?
  • What motivates or demotivates you?
  • What keeps you here?
  • What might tempt you to leave?

Employees also answer questions like:

  • In 3 - 5 years, I would like to have responsibility for ___?
  • I would like to build ____ skills and be more successful at ____.

Deb shared that 57% of employees want a career conversation, not just a performance review.

"Harness the Inner Why": Another CASE speaker, Troy Lindloff, Associate Chair for Development & Strategic Campaign Administration at the Mayo Clinic, led this insightful exercise:

Write down 3 ways you find meaning in your work.

Troy encouraged nonprofit leaders and managers to do this exercise with their staff - to "harness their inner why" and understand what truly motivates them.

Regarding the dreaded memos, TPS reports, handbooks, and company policies with which every employee is all too familiar, Troy said, "Humanity must be a part of your policy."

Create a New Culture: If you have the power to change the culture, learn from Scott Arthur, Vice Chancellor for Advancement at the University of Colorado Anschutz, and Jim Hodge, Associate Vice Chancellor for Advancement at University of Colorado Anschutz.

Scott and Jim believe:

  • Philanthropy is artwork - full of beauty, truth and hard work.
  • Full-Frontal Philanthropy is co-creating big ideas shoulder-to-shoulder with donors.
  • Lead with abundance, not scarcity.
  • Hire fundraisers with batteries included.
  • Measure values, not dollar goals.

Share your thoughts about retention?

If you're a nonprofit leader, what are you looking for in a great fundraiser?

If you're a manager, what do you need from your org to be successful?

If you're a fundraiser, what would make you stay?

Let's start a conversation (oh, and raise more money. and change the world!)