It’s a constant struggle in the development world to find and keep talented fundraisers and staff. Institutions of all sizes are facing budgetary struggles and, as a result, are prioritizing private support, launching campaigns, and reorganizing resources. The size of fundraising programs across the nation is growing, but the talent pool of qualified, effective fundraisers is simply not growing fast enough to meet the new demand. Development shops of all sizes are competing for frontline talent, and very few are winning. Below are some tips for what non-profits can do to better find, attract, and recruit fundraising talent.
A popular saying—the best defense is a good offense—comes to mind as being especially applicable here. The direct cost of losing a development officer can be anywhere from 1.5 to 2 times his/her salary. The indirect cost of such a loss, however, is much greater as the vacant position results in lost portfolio yield and gaps in critical prospect relationships. The best fundraising shops are those who build recruitment strategies before vacancies arise. Some ways of doing this are:
- Building talent internally and establishing programs that identify high potential individuals from within the institution and training them in frontline fundraising.
- Creating a “wish list” of individuals and their related qualities that would fit well within your institution and focusing on building relationships with those people so that when an opportunity does arise, a few candidates have already been identified. At the very least, this process gives managers an idea of the traits that have great value when searching for new hires.
- Offering incentives for staff referrals for open positions. People who are already familiar with your shop will be able to be strong judges of who will fit in. Fundraisers are also natural networkers, so encouraging referrals will extend the reach of job postings. A bonus to this strategy is that staff referrals can be used as a gauge of staff satisfaction; if few members of your team are eager to share openings with their contacts then there is a good chance that they don’t view the work environment to be strong and vice versa.
Look for Consistency in Experience
One of the worst possible outcomes of hiring a new fundraiser is to invest in finding and onboarding the individual only to have him/her leave within 24 months. It’s easy enough for both strong and weak performers to hop from institution to institution chasing promotions. One thing that strong performers in frontline fundraising have in common, however, is a passion for the non-profit cause. Passion for the cause of their institution is consistently listed as a top driver of personal satisfaction and inspiration for fundraising stars. When reviewing applicants and candidates, development shops should value consistency in both the length of time at previous organizations as well as the overall cause ethos of the individual’s background. A development officer who is driven by cause as well as ambition is more likely to choose institutions that serve a similar community or mission.
Create an Appealing Offer
Salaries and titles for frontline fundraisers are seeing more and more inflation as the demand for talent continues to exceed the supply. As a result, many fundraising shops are upping the ante of what they can offer new hires. Those who are succeeding in this area, however, are creating offers that present more than just a salary bump and new title. Flexible benefits, vacation, and professional development opportunities create great appeal to candidates. Including these items in offer conversations also communicates to job candidates that your organization values employee development and work-life balance, making the position all the more desirable.
Ultimately the institutions that do the best in hiring are those who don’t have to do it too frequently. Follow-through and commitment to talent development and management is critical to development shop success. Successfully hiring a new fundraiser is only the first step in filling a talent need in your office. Planning out and implementing the next ten steps after he/she comes onboard are just as important to reach your goals.
Copyright © 2014 Bentz Whaley Flessner & Associates, Inc.