Great fundraisers are hard to find, and the real challenge is keeping them.
Employers need to show staff they believe they are worth investing in. Budgets are always the bad guy, right? Does someone deserve a raise? Absolutely. Can your organization afford it, or are they willing to?
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
We can’t let this problem continue to force the loss of high-performing fundraisers to other professions. We must get creative about retention strategies.
If an employee is exceptional, you want to keep them. As nonprofit leaders, we should be attentive to fundraisers’ needs if we want to improve retention. It’s about finding what is important to each person and ensuring they are provided with it; people are diverse and need different things to be satisfied.
It could be as easy as offering a flexible work schedule or opportunities for advancement. It also could be supporting a fundraiser with professional development, something often overlooked. A 2022 survey found the second most popular reason Millennials and Gen Z chose their current employer was that it offered learning and development opportunities.
You need to show them their performance and loyalty to your organization matters.
My Own Experience
Years ago, I was offered a job at an amazing organization that was a promotion in title and a large pay raise. I let my employer know what was offered, conveyed I had one week to give an answer, and let them know I was considering it.
My boss came back quickly with a promotion and a raise, but the pay did not come close to matching what the other company offered. I was at a public university, and I understood the budget was even more constrained than some organizations.
I knew what they were offering was truly the top of what they could give. Also, I loved working for my organization and wanted to find a way to stay. So, I accepted the position but asked them to pay for me to get a CFRE and then support the continuing education I would need to keep it. They agreed.
What Your Fundraisers Want
Turnover negatively affects everyone in the organization, especially if it’s a fundraiser exiting.
It breaks the donor cycle, whether their position is replaced in a timely manner or not. The dip in dollars raised can be larger than the salary savings you get while searching for a new employee.
Research has shown that Gen Z and Millennials expect employers to invest in their professional development. Yet, many employers have a small or nonexistent PD budget. I have worked for people that didn’t believe PD was important as well as for those that encouraged it.
As a high-performing fundraiser, I can tell you which one made me feel more valued. A robust PD budget to support retention is important, but it’s not just about the money. It’s also about asking your employees what their goals are and aligning those with their position’s goals.
Build a budget to support the kind of PD that makes both of those work together. Classes and conferences are great, but helping someone attain their CFRE or another industry-recognized credential is even better because you are investing in their career growth long term.
Each quarter, check in with your team members about their PD needs and wants. Start the conversation. Don’t put the burden on them to bring it up.
Do they feel overwhelmed with one kind of task and could benefit from extra training? Is your team about to pilot a P2P program and your staff wish to attend a relevant conference so the projects goes off without a hitch?
Everybody would love a raise, but that’s not always a possibility. Budgeted professional development should be a priority. Develop a system that works for your employees and organization.
Some of you might have the ability to support all development staff annually. Others might need to rotate positions and years. Base this on whatever works for you: seniority of employees, new hires that need the development and/or education, or some other criteria.
Once your plan is ready to launch, communicate it to your employees. This could be at your next all-staff meeting, during 1:1 weekly check-ins, or an organization-wide webinar. Carve out time for Q&A to ensure you’re addressing any areas of uncertainty.
Using PD as a retention strategy can’t work if your team doesn’t know it exists.
Paying My CFRE Forward
I recently left the organization that paid for me to obtain my CFRE. One of the first things I did in my new larger role was increase our professional development budget. I knew I needed funding to support my own CFRE hours, and I also wanted the ability to support my team in the same way.
This fall, the first person on my team (besides myself) will sit for her CFRE and we are paying for it. In the grand scheme, it’s not a lot of money out of our budget. The added value it gives to the employee and our organization goes so much further than the dollars we will spend.
We are showing her that we value her as an employee, but we also care about her as a person because we want to support her dreams and goals.