Something Worth Reading: Deloitte University Press Global Human Capital Trends 2014

deloitte report coverDeloitte has released a new and very interesting report, Global Human Capital Trends. This report, which looks at trends across the for-profit and non-profit sector has some great data on the challenges faced by industries reliant on skilled, high-level human capital. In particular the report draws attention to the following:

This year’s 12 critical human capital trends are organized into three broad areas:

  • Lead and develop: The need to broaden, deepen, and accelerate leadership development at all levels; build global workforce capabilities; re-energize corporate learning by putting employees in charge; and fix performance management
  • Attract and engage: The need to develop innovative ways to attract, source, recruit, and access talent; drive passion and engagement in the workforce; use diversity and inclusion as a business strategy; and find ways to help the overwhelmed employee deal with the flood of information and distractions in the workplace
  • Transform and reinvent: The need to create a global HR platform that is robust and flexible enough to adapt to local needs; reskill HR teams; take advantage of cloud-based HR technology; and implement HR data analytics to achieve business goals

These three themes are especially applicable to strategic talent management in fundraising. We’ve discussed the importance and difficulty of leadership in development as well as the role of engagement in retention.  The third element in the quote above reflects a rising consciousness in the development field. How we think about human resources globally needs to shift towards better strategy and comprehensive approaches.

Many development shops have only recently invested in owning their own team for hiring, overseeing, and training staff. Those that have succeeded have seen better results not only in the quality of their new hires, but in overall retention, engagement and satisfaction. Talent management needs to be more than conference attendance and a one-day orientation of new hires; it needs to be constantly adapting, assessing, and utilizing the engagement and skills of the team members of an organization. In fundraising we have many tools (metrics, analytics, professional seminars and conferences, database and portfolio management, etc). As development managers it is our responsibility to weild these tools meaningfully, while we apply some of the key traditional HR concepts described in this report.


Something Worth Reading: Talent Retention and CASE’s “Hire Learning”

I know that talent management is a critical component of development success. This article  from CASE Currents highlights just why. Written by Peter Hayashida (VC for Advancement at UC Riverside) this essay describes the great challenge of turnover in the development field.  Hayashida makes many good points, including:

That leads me to an important point about retention, pay, and performance. In their book,First, Break All the Rules, authors Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman argue that people don’t leave jobs; they leave managers. Specifically, they leave managers who don’t properly manage employee performance. Poor performers drag entire organizations down and make high achievers vulnerable to the lure of greener pastures. In development, we tend to promote people with strong technical abilities as fundraisers into managerial jobs but give them little training on the skills required to be successful leaders.

We’ve talked about  the gap between technical and managerial skills, and the challenges of finding good managers, and the difficulty of recruitment before. Peter Hayashida hits one key issue on the head here: effective management is one of the best tools we have to attract and keep valuable talent. In a market where fundraisers are being called about job opportunities multiple times a month, having managers who engage their employees, inspire good performance, and build rapport is going to make the difference in whether your fundraisers stay or go.


In about a month Bentz Whaley Flessner will be releasing the report of its findings from a national survey of frontline fundraisers and what drives their behavior and job engagement. Early glances at this data have consistently pointed to two things: weak management is the top reason listed by those with low job satisfaction, and leadership training is the top topic area where fundraisers want more professional development. We should be able to address both these areas by focusing on building up what it means to effectively manage fundraisers and development teams.


The article also features perspectives of three other experts on diversity, job hopping, and talent management investment. It is definitely worth a read.

Jumping the Career Track: How traditional staffing structures damage fundraiser retention

We’ve touched on how important rewarding and recognizing performance is to the staff satisfaction and performance of your fundraising team. But immediate recognition and reward is a strategy for building confidence in the short term. But what are some long-term strategies that will keep fundraisers, especially top performers, engaged and invested in your organization?

Turnover is a constant concern for nearly every non-profit fundraising program. In many cases office culture, structures, and leadership impact overall staff and talent retention rates. But for top performers, who may be invested in the cause and office, the reasons for leaving become more nuanced and related to their own desire to grow professionally and be recognized for that growth. Take the chart below of a “typical” (and simplified) career path into major gifts:

Career pathways

There are a few problems with the ladder above.

  • First, there are a limited amount of opportunities for promotion once the gift officer level has been reached. This is the level, usually, where a team member is most desirable for retention – the organization has invested in their growth and development level and their contribution to the institution is poised to greatly increase. For smaller organizations this is an especially detrimental structure because they end up having talented frontline fundraisers that they want to keep, but have no open leadership positions to offer for promotion. What happens most frequently in this scenario is that a fundraiser who wishes to see more career growth is forced to consider external organizations to get to that next step.


  • Secondly, once someone gets very successful at donor relations and fundraising, the only options for growth are to take on managerial responsibilities. Effectively we are rewarding those people who do something very well with a job that leaves them less time for the area in which they excel. For the field of fundraising this effectively means that we are diverting human capital from raising gifts.  Most non-profit organizations have a higher need and larger shortage for gift income than they do for management.  Strong management is important in any organization, but, as we’ve touched on before, what makes a strong fundraiser doesn’t necessarily make a strong manager. Furthermore, if an individual has the potential to continue to grow as a fundraiser and bring new and larger gifts to the institution then the priority of managers should be to facilitate that growth, not force a management career path simply because it’s the only one available.


  • Thirdly, the path above limits top positions in a development office to major gift professionals, limiting the desirability of development operations positions (who can only rise so far in a traditional organization) and increasing the potential for development leadership teams to lack both strategic management soft skills and fundraising business technical fluency.


Four Principles for Better Fundraising Team Management

I’ve been thinking a lot about why talented team members leave lately. In the development world in particular, where it is relatively easy for a talented individual to find another institution it is very important to keep and support the talent that you do have. In a few studies of why fundraising professionals leave organizations one frequently cited reason beyond the “better job offer” explanations have to do with inadequate support from management and culture. Below are four key points that help prevent and combat staff dissatisfaction with management in fundraising.


1. Positive feedback and consistency will yield more results than punitive measures

A big difference between effective managers and those who fail to lead their team is clarity and consistency in expectations. There are few things more frustrating for direct reports than to have worked diligently on a project or initiative to be told after the fact that their work wasn’t on a top priority, or wasn’t what was actually wanted. In the metrics-driven world of development this can often become not only an issue of morale but of ineffective performance evaluations. Positive feedback is more than recognition and “good job” notices; it’s aligning the structures behind recognition and evaluation with the directives that are given. For example, fundraisers are often told to go on as many visits as possible, but may be also told that multiple meetings in office are mandatory. As a manager it is your responsibility to be clear on the degree to which the mandatory meetings are prioritized over prospect visits (only acceptable for top 25, never acceptable) and reinforce that decision when metrics may reflect time spent elsewhere.

2. Your body language and attitude matter more than what you say.

We as humans are often far more perceptive of body language and subtext in communication that the actual content that is delivered orally. Similarly, we are more sensitive to mood and atmosphere than we are to simple communications, because we attach deeper meaning to those aspects of work life. If a manager goes to compliment or discuss something with a team member while frustrated/tense/angry, even if that frustration is not due to the team member’s behavior, then the conversation will be remembered as negative and can do damage to a staff member’s job satisfaction and confidence. Being aware of your mood and how your approach influences the experience of your colleagues is a skill that is difficult to develop, but critical to long-term success and confidence in your leadership.

3.  Training and professional development are never complete

Often as a manager you can become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of things you have to deal with. When managing a large team, especially one where there are team members who need extra attention to have adequate performance, it is easy to rely on your top performers for consistency. Strong or experienced team members rarely require you to “put out fires,” but, while that makes it easier on you, it doesn’t mean that those individuals don’t have greater ambitions or even weak areas that they need to develop. Integrating training and professional development opportunities and discussions into your regular management routine helps communicate value to your fundraising team. Providing professional development and training to more seasoned individuals can also have a positive impact on the overall team, equipping those individuals with more skills and tools to be leaders and stewards of junior team members.

4. Development operations/advancement services are critical to office morale and culture

In development it is really easy to work in silos, whether they be between academic units at a university, programs in a development office, or leadership and staff. One of the most common “divisions” is between the teams who manage people (development, fundraising) and the teams who manage systems and data (advancement services, development operations). We’ve talked before about how important having strong development operations talent is. How that talent is treated, valued, and included can have a great impact on the overall effectiveness/satisfaction of your team. Open and clear communication between the two areas helps foster creativity in dealing with strategic and procedural challenges. Fostering a positive environment on the operations side increases the tendency for team members to be proactive in supporting and structuring frontline fundraising activity. On the other end, when your development team has both confidence and access to operations teams they are more likely to be better system and database users, collaborate more effectively with research, and reach out when new needs arise.

Something Worth Reading: The appeal of non-profit leadership in “Work-life demands intense for CEOs at nonprofits”

Those of us who have worked in the non-profit industry for a while can become used to the “when’s your serious career going to start?” sort of questions. But there’s more to this doubt than the lower salaries that come with working at a non-profit organization. Increasingly institutions demand more and more commitment, time, and energy from their staff and leadership. This article post touches on the effect of that pressure on CEOs in particular, but there are several salient points, in particular:

When you lead a nonprofit, where the end game is about making the community a better place to live, the workload can be immense and the emotions intense. It’s a big responsibility – and one that people in their 20s and 30s aren’t rushing to undertake. As the demand for leaders in nonprofits increases, young workers say they don’t want to make the work-life sacrifices required of nonprofit executives…

We’ve spent a lot of time on this blog talking about fundraisers and development officers, but fundraising talent in the form of leadership is also often in short supply. Even those who have great potential may be reluctant to take on new leadership responsibilities because the increased pressure and stress that accompanies a promotion are not sufficiently balanced out by job benefits and satisfaction.

Part of the struggle can come from the nature of non-profit leadership. Most non-profit institutions are smaller organizations and with every promotion comes a large jump in responsibility. Individuals therefore tend to shoulder a broader spectrum of responsibility for an organization’s success, and, if something does go wrong, staff don’t face a loss in “profit” – they are in a position to see and feel responsible for a gap in services provided or institutional impact.

We do have a silver lining, one that applies to most non-profit staff members in general – the great privilege of working to do good and using you passion, education, and time to change the world. The article acknowledges this as well. The question becomes then, how do we utilize team members’ passion and enthusiasm for an organization and it’s mission without burning stars out too early?

Five Reasons why you should invest in strong development operations talent

clock wheels

We’ve spent a lot of time so far talking about frontline fundraisers (what makes some stronger, how to recruit them, how to support them, and how to think about their time), and it’s easy to forget about those who make the wheels turn in a development office: the operation/advancement team.

You can have a stellar fundraising front line, but without equally strong back up and structure your results can fall flat. Here are five reasons why development operations deserve more applause and attention.

(1) A well-managed database keeps donors happy

Database accuracy is a constant challenge for development shops. Those that struggle with maintaining strong records and contact information are more inclined to make mistakes. Sometimes these errors can be as basic as sending direct marketing solicitations to someone who has requested no contact. Other times a weak database tracking can result in fundraisers dueling and competing for the same prospects. The most damaging effects of a weak database can be in the area of donor stewardship and relationships. I’ve seen an organization invite donors to a recognition event only to have nearly half of the donors at incorrect or out of date recognition levels, and I’ve worked with another institution that sent a solicitation addressed to a married couple of longtime major  donors when the recipient was recently widowed. Data errors like this happen, but a strong database management team can prevent a majority of them and put safeguards in place to catch and respond to those errors that do make it through.

(2) Well-crafted reporting, research, analytics, and prospect management can elevate fundraising results

You can have your fundraisers make 100 calls a month, but if they are not meeting with the right people their results are likely to remain lackluster. Development operations/advancement services is not an area that merely tracks and records fundraising activity; it directs and facilitates a more strategic and success-oriented fundraising team.  Investing in talent in development operations means that your office is more likely to have a team capable of identifying, targeting, and understanding your institution’s strongest prospects and leveraging your organization’s most compelling elements. This results in better protected and targeted frontline fundraising, leading to better results and long-term sustainability.

(3) Strong leadership in development operations balances out the overall office’s perspective and management

We’ve talked about the difficulty of finding one individual with the ability and inclination to manage an entire development office. There’s a certain degree of politics to be played with leadership, fundraisers, and donors alike. On the other hand you need a strong data-driven and analytical mind in leadership to direct the  technical aspects of your development shop as well as apply their understanding of operations to overall mission and goal setting. If all staffing in development operations/advancement services is at the junior level you lose this valuable perspective. You also communicate to your infrastructure team that their role is less visible and valuable within the office because they do not have an ally at the leadership level.

(4) Turnover in development operations staffing can be incredibly disruptive

Most people who have worked in the fundraising field for more than 5 years have lived through (survived?) a database or system conversion. They’re messy, and things get lost, and sometimes you feel like the supposed new efficiency isn’t worth the frustration. A turnover in staff can have a less public but similar disruptive effect. If an office doesn’t seek to retain and reward talent in operations then it will quickly lose to competition those individuals who not only have great technical skills but have an understanding of your organization, donor base, and processes that cannot be easily picked up by a new hire.

(5) Development operations/Advancement Services is a great place to build home-grown talent in all areas

Development operations teams tend have younger, more technologically savvy, and early career professionals.  It is a great recruiting ground then for both operations leadership and fundraising talent alike. Fundraising programs that do not pay attention to this great resource therefore miss the great opportunity and potential organizational sustainability to build their own talent pools, having to rely more on the difficult world of poaching and recruiting talent to fill staffing and fundraising openings. Those who translate broader staff retention and talent management strategies to their operations team have a greater chance to keep and capitalize on their younger, high potential staff members.

Something Worth Reading: NonProfit Times “Employee Referrals Gets Jobs Filled, Challenges Keep Them Going”

Having a good work culture can mean the world of difference in so many different facets of a development office. Take, for example, this article (begin on p 4)  from the Nonprofit times. It basically discusses the high value of employee referrals for new hires through highlighting a few members from the NPT top non-profits to work for list for 2013. It should be no surprise that those organization with strong management and communications have higher satisfaction, which, in turn, leads to employee referrals, which, in turn, leads to better hires and a stronger team. It’s a cycle that reinforces itself.

In working with non-profit educational institutions and healthcare centers a type of question that is regularly asked of constituents and donors is “would you recommend this school to your friends?” or “would you refer an acquaintance to this hospital?”. A prospect or donor’s response to that one question will reveal the most about how favorably they view the nonprofit and how engaged they really are. So, why don’t we ask those questions of our staff and fundraisers?


One other area of interest in this recap of the best non-profits to work for is this tidbit:

Training and Development proved the weakest category, across the board, for nonprofits.

Between program management, actual fundraising, keeping a team fully staffed and budgeted, and working with leadership and boards, it is easy to let staff training and development slip as a priority. A strong development office, however, is one that grows, not necessarily in overall staff size, but in capacity, knowledge, expertise, and creativity. While some of that growth can be accomplished on an individual level, the strongest programs know that adequately training new staff and developing the skill sets of existing staff can greatly facilitate real growth and see positive outcomes, both in development office performance as well as job satisfaction.