4 Ways to Retain Fundraising and Development Staff and Reduce Turnover

Regular readers of my articles know that I am a firm believer that reducing turnover and focusing on how to retain fundraising and development staff is one of the best investments your nonprofit can make. The amount of money and time lost during a lame duck employee’s remaining tenure, interviewing for a replacement, as well as ramp up time and on-boarding for a new team member is outrageous (and, rarely, if ever, quantified). Now consider that the average time a development professional stays in a position continues to drop and is now much less than two years. As long as you like the employee, consider these four ways to help improve the possibility of retaining your fundraising and development staff.

  1. Know what your employees are saying to their friends. I am not recommending eavesdropping, spying or stalking them on social media. But try to have a regularly scheduled check-in about what they like or don’t like in their jobs. If that seems too open-ended for you, in addition to regular supervisory meetings, start by engaging with an employee 3 months after they are hired. Whatever concerns that came up in the interview (lack of board leadership, long commute, etc.) can be specifically addressed to determine if they are better or worse than suspected. Try to find out if there were unexpected hurdles that emerged and determine if there are things that you can address before they are one of the factors that encourages him to leave for a new job. And keep in mind that his replacement may come and go for the same reasons so it is worth breaking the cycle sooner rather than later.
  2. Staff training – We’ve said it before and we will say it again – encouraging continual learning is telling the employee that you want them to grow and that you are invested in their success. It also helps you get a better employee without turnover issues. A few days without a development director while she attends a conference is nothing compared to a few months without any development director when she decides she has learned all she can from your institution. Would $3,000 a year toward graduate school help retain your employee for another 3 or 4 years? That seems like a worthwhile investment in the long-run.
  3. How is this employee treated (or more importantly, how does he or she think they are treated)? Your organization probably has a standard by which you respect your employees and offer basic levels of consideration. But it takes closer examination to determine whether the board member that checks in three times a week is helping get things done or causing the employee to work late to make up for lost time on the phone. Is there a culture that encourages the employee to feel involved or to feel like a one-person ship with too much responsibility and not enough camaraderie? It seems that everyone is overworked these days, a little extra special treatment can make up for a lot as well as enhance team-building and productivity.
  4. Consider whether you are asking too much. One person cannot do everything and if an employee cannot succeed they will eventually feel that there is very little point in trying. If there is too much work and not enough hands, consider other ways to help them feel good about their accomplishments. Help prioritize with the understanding that some things may not get done and that is okay. Consider ways to outsource pieces. Train loyal volunteers to help do aspects of the job that are vital yet time-consuming and/or time sensitive but don’t require too much experience.

If you would like to talk about more ways in which Mersky, Jaffe & Associates can help you retain your staff – email David A. Mersky by clicking here.