Key Questions in Staffing for a Campaign

We live in the age of campaigns. Most non-profits right now are either:

a. In the middle of a major campaign.
b. Closing out a large campaign.
c. Planning for the next big campaign.
d. Extending the timeline or raising the goal of a current campaign.

Staffing goes hand-in-hand with preparing for and implementing a campaign. In development we expect to have to increase our staff sizes to increase fundraising results for a campaign. We spend a lot of time acknowledging the need to increase resources to increase results, but the process of “staffing up” can rapidly become convoluted. Below are four key questions that help steer us into the most effective campaign staffing situations.

How effective is our current team?

To create a campaign staffing plan, we have to take a hard look at who our current performers are and what our outcomes would be if we maintained the status quo. Part of this process is evaluating the fundraising team, both on existing performance and long-term potential. We have to take the time to make sure that our ratio of performers to non-performers is healthy and that team members are capable of handling the high expectations of a campaign. The tool below can help you map out the current strengths of your team.

How much time are our fundraisers currently spending on major giving?

When considering staffing for a campaign, leaders must ask this question first before choosing to simply add new fundraisers to the mix.

Through our talent management analysis and staffing assessments, BWF has consistently found that most fundraisers spend far less time on major giving than their job descriptions require. In many cases only half of fundraisers who are expected to spend 70% or more of their time on major giving are able to do so.

If your current frontline team members aren’t spending as much time as they could working on their portfolios and with their donors, then it would be wiser to invest in support and infrastructure. Consider this scenario:

If you have 100 fundraisers (average salary: $100K, average gift income: $1M) who have less than optimal time in the field: You can invest in 10 new fundraisers ($1M in salaries, $10M in post-ramp up gift income).

OR

You can strengthen targeted support areas and infrastructure to allow those fundraisers to spend even just 10% more time in the field (less than $500K in new salaries, $10M in gift income, immediate outcomes—no ramp-up delay).

Are there substantial obstacles or burdens on the team right now?

Bad policies or ineffective systems stall campaign momentum. Development leadership team members are responsible for ensuring that their frontline fundraisers are empowered to perform and execute during a campaign. When talking about staffing plans, therefore, the leadership team must identify and nullify any major barriers or obstacles that distract team members or prevent them from focusing on their top priorities. Typical barriers and obstacles are:

  • Unclear goals or philanthropic priorities.
  • Burdensome reporting or travel requirements.
  • Inaccurate data or ineffective databases.
  • Toxic organizational culture and/or personalities.
  • Inefficient competition amongst teams over prospects, resources, or political power.

Can we count on retaining existing team members?

Results in a campaign often end up being driven by a select few high performers. As development leaders, we must ask ourselves if we know who those individuals are and if we have a strategy for retaining them. This is especially important considering that, for a frontline officer, it takes 3–4 years to begin to achieve high-level results. A staffing ramp-up means that any new hires are not likely to perform on the same level as their peers until several years into the campaign. If there is high staff turnover, then it doesn’t matter how large your organizational chart is: you will never fully realize the team’s potential or build meaningful momentum within your program. Retention can cost up to 250% of the open position’s salary in today’s hiring climate. Campaign staffing plans, therefore, must be about combating attrition as well as increasing overall FTEs.

BWF’s TalentED division focuses on the challenges, best practices, and strategy for talent management in development. To hear more about what we do or find answers to your own talent challenges contact us at training@bwf.com.

Copyright © 2015 Bentz Whaley Flessner & Associates, Inc.

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Why Fundraisers Leave—Differentiating Retention Strategies for Your Front Line

Originally published February 26, 2015

Fundraiser recruitment and retention is a hot topic in our industry for good reason: the demand for talented fundraisers far exceeds the supply. Development shops of all shapes and sizes are struggling to keep the talent they have. However, how we think about retention may be misguided.

There are a few key trends to consider:

  • Most fundraisers believe that their salary and benefits packages are competitive.
  • Less than 10% of front-line fundraisers are actively looking for a new job.
  • Management and leadership largely shape how satisfied or dissatisfied team members are.

The trends listed above are about fundraisers in general, but there are several layers to how front-line fundraisers become engaged in your organization and vulnerable to poaching over time.

BWF studied how front-line fundraisers differed in their engagement based on their tenure at an organization. We found that retention strategies are better differentiated based on how long someone has been a member of the team, largely due to the following three trends:

Newcomers to the Team Need Time and Guidance to Adapt

Fundraisers with less than two years of tenure at an organization had slightly higher dissatisfaction rates and lower rates of high satisfaction than their peers who had been there at least two years(24% of those with <2 years reporting being very satisfied versus 36% of those who had been there 2–5 years). The top reason for dissatisfaction? Office culture. Regardless of whether newcomers to your development program are experienced professionals or novices, they are coming to an office with different values, relationships and approaches. Learning how to navigate a new institution and find your “fit” amongst a team is a top obstacle for new hires.

Team Members are Most Vulnerable to Poaching and Most Costly to be Poached Between Years 2 and 5

After the first two years, we can assume that newcomers who might have been frustrated with culture have either adapted or left. Fundraisers are then finding their stride, bonding with team members, progressing beyond a discovery-heavy portfolio, and seeing their first big successes with your donors. On average, their satisfaction increases. This is also the performance “ramp-up” period for fundraisers (our data show that portfolio performance grows slowly in newcomers through year 3 and then jumps dramatically). The institution begins to receive a healthy return on its investment during this period.

However, this is a period of high risk for losing your team members. Even though only 6% of this group is actively searching for a new position, nearly 30% are passively open to opportunities when they are approached. And after 24 months at an organization, fundraisers have a long enough time period on their resume to avoid raising eyebrows. Be assured that they are being contacted (27% report at least 10+ instances of contact about new opportunities in a year-long period). This can also be a period where team members become disillusioned, pointing to leadership and unrealistic expectations as primary causes of dissatisfaction.

Dissatisfaction Increases as Fundraisers Gain Tenure

Across stages of tenure, there is one more interesting trend: those with over a decade of experience at an institution have the highest dissatisfaction rates. High tenure fundraisers are more comfortable with your office culture and accustomed to the expectations placed upon them. They are, however, equally familiar with any dysfunction in your development office, particularly if there is weak management and leadership. Frontline fundraisers who have been at an institution over 10+ years may now have limited management oversight but bigger responsibilities and are more acutely affected by mismanagement than their lower tenure peers.

Source: Bentz Whaley Flessner Front-Line Fundraiser Study, 2014.

So What Does This Mean for You?

Here’s how you can hone your retention strategies based on these findings:

  • Focus on easing the adjustment to a new culture and institution for new hires.
  • Create growth and leadership opportunities before formal promotions.
  • Improve transparency in expectations during fundraiser performance ramp-ups.
  • Foster ownership of institutional and management improvements amongst high tenure team members.

BWF’s TalentED practice partners with non-profit institutions to optimize fundraising outcomes through customized team and skill-building workshops, talent management and learning development program assessments and planning, and thought leadership and research on the talent crisis in development. To learn more about how you might better find, keep, and grow your talent contact us at training@bwf.com.

Copyright © 2015 Bentz Whaley Flessner & Associates, Inc

A Year for Innovation in the Management of Fundraisers

Talent management is a hot topic in the field of fundraising for a good reason; the data has repeatedly shown that non-profit success often lives or dies in the hands of a few high-performing fundraisers. 2015 will require non-profit leaders to face the talent crisis head on. The following anticipated trends for 2015 will drive the need to find, keep, and grow fundraising talent.

1. An Expanding Rise in Competition for Talent. Competition for talent isn’t going to get better in the near future. Development shops are increasing in size and in campaign goals. Similarly with the count of $1M+ gifts dropping dramatically while the number of $50M+ gifts continues to rise,(1) the need for experienced, sophisticated fundraisers has increased while the group of the most experienced major gift teams is heading into retirement.

Further, as charities abroad continue to grow in number and size, and as multiple universities seek nine and ten figure campaigns, the demand for development talent on and behind the frontline will rise dramatically.

There’s no real pipeline of talent to support this growth. As a consequence, fundraisers across the board of experience are being actively and frequently (10+ times a year) recruited from other institutions(2) only to stay for a couple of years before moving onward yet again. This disruptive pattern is even more disheartening when you take into account the 3.5- to 4-year ramp-up period for the return on investment in hiring a fundraiser.(3)

 

2. Hybridization and Re-imagination of Hard-to-Fill Roles. Facing the increasing competition for talent, especially seasoned fundraisers, many institutions are likely to find themselves with extended vacancies or rapid turnover. In the immediacy of needing to fulfill the duties assigned to these staffing gaps, we are likely to see an increase in creativity with the existing team member roles and responsibilities, including:

  • Management responsibility delegation away from the frontline to allow for more focus on major and principal gifts.
  • Reorganization and centralization of key resources across institutional systems to streamline prospect management.
  • New programs put in place for “warming” donors via phone and through prospect management staff to lessen the burden of discovery and qualification on major gift officers.
3. Experiments in Growing Your Own Talent. As institutions are forced to get more creative and strategic about talent, we will see a rise in programming and structures built around growing talent internally, especially by larger institutions. This will be marked by:

  • A dramatic increase and further development of a new class of professionals at large institutions: directors of talent management and training.
  • Centralization and creation of training programming and resources across complex systems of development shops, particularly in higher education (state systems) and healthcare (community hospital systems and networks).
  • An increase in expectations for talent management and employee engagement by middle managers in development.
  • New career ladders and pathways that target talent earlier and blur the lines between the “front” and “back” of development offices.

2015 will be a year for testing new pilot programs and strategies to better manage the time of the frontline talent an organization has and create a pathway for high potential individuals to grow. In all likelihood the most notable programs of the future will not be the institutions which grow to have the largest development staff sizes, but rather those organizations that best attract, develop, and optimize the talent they do have.

 

 

Originally published  as a BWF Client Advisory on January 22, 2015

1 – The Million Dollar List. Accessed December 8, 2014.

2 – 2014 BWF Survey of Frontline Fundraisers

3 – 2014 BWF DonorCast Talent Analytics

Copyright © 2015 Bentz Whaley Flessner & Associates, Inc.

Something Worth Reading: “3 Ways to Engage Employees Without Spending a Dime”

Piggy Bank 6For many advancement programs, the most meagerly funded budget lines—and usually the first spending category to be cut when budgets get tight—are professional development and employee engagement activities for members of its team. Regular readers of this blog will probably agree that such miserly investment in staff development is short-sighted and misguided, and it is likely to have negative consequences for fundraising results that will be far more costly in the long run than whatever benefits the short-term savings might yield.

While we have made multiple arguments in favor of increased and sustained investments in professional development—including the importance of practice and repetition, for enhancing performance, and as a retention strategy—for many organizations, skimpy budget allocations will remain a fact of life for the foreseeable future. So what can an enlightened fundraising leader do in the meantime to improve performance, enhance morale, and increase employee tenure without a budget to do it?

Jennifer McClure of the TalentAdvisor at CareerBuilder’s HiringSite blog just published an article that presents three valuable reminders for managers of fundraisers or any other team of employees. You can read the full article at “3 Ways to Engage Employees Without Spending a Dime,” but here are McClure’s three recommendations in a nutshell:

1.  Connect Employees’ Work to a Higher Purpose. “To capture the hearts and minds of your employees, you must hope them understand how their specific job affects your end product or service – and how their work matters.”

2.  Enable Progress by Removing Obstacles. “The most common event triggering a “best day” at work response? Any progress made by the individual or by their team. Even a small step forward counted. The most common event triggering a ‘worst day’ response? A setback.”

3.  Celebrate Successes—Big and Small. “A simple ‘thank you,’ high-five or personal note can go a long way to increasing employees’ emotional commitment. In fact, according to Towers Watson, recognition from supervisors and managers can ‘turbocharge’ employee engagement for better workplace productivity and performance.”

The experiences of our team at Bentz Whaley Flessner, as well as research among front-line fundraisers conducted on behalf of our TalentED practice, confirm the wisdom of McClure’s advice.

Each of McClure’s suggestions is solid and cost-neutral. But that does not mean they are simple and easy to implement; on the contrary, here suggestions each require commitment, focus, thoughtfulness and persistence.  But not only are these three strategies powerful and effective, they make sense for all fundraising programs—whether those programs have an ample professional development budget or not.

MGOs: Why a New Job Should NOT Be on Your 2015 To-Do List

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????The rate of turnover among fundraisers remains high, and among no cohort of advancement professionals is this movement more pronounced than major gift officers (MGOs). Recent studies and surveys by CASE, AFP and others suggest the average tenure of a frontline fundraiser is now somewhere in the range of 2.4 to 3.5 years.

Whatever the actual tenure numbers may be, it’s obvious that a lot of major gift officers are on the move. And if you’re not already among them, it’s highly likely there will be attempts to convince you that you should be: A 2014 survey by our firm, Bentz Whaley Flessner (BWF), found that two-thirds of all frontline fundraisers with at least two years of major gift experience had received at least three recruiting contacts during the prior year, with a significant subset of that cohort receiving even more (see adjacent chart).

In other words, if you’re a major gift officer with even a smidgen of experience someone will try enticing you to move in 2015. My advice: Don’t do it.

Bar Chart 001My rationale for dissuading you from changing jobs boils down to the proverb, “good things come to those who wait.” Frontline fundraisers who truly want to achieve success and produce transformational outcomes must be prepared to make an up-front investment of time—in their institutions, in their donors, and in themselves. Frequent moves do not serve you well, for several reasons:

  • Practice, Practice, Practice. The skills for effective cultivation, solicitation, negotiation and closing are only acquired through practice. Major gift fundraising is an art, and to become good at it requires training, repetition and lots of hands-on experience. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, suggests that proficiency in any complex task is only achieved after 10,000 hours of practice. If we accept Gladwell’s rule and apply it to fundraising, we can project that a first-time gift officer will require almost five years to become effective at their work: 10,000 hours ÷ (40 hours x 52 weeks) = 4.8 years.
  • Gladwell is Right. Additional research conducted by BWF on behalf of our clients confirms the validity of Gladwell’s proposition:  When measuring the year-to-year progression of major gift officers’ productivity, it MGO Productivity 001isn’t until their fourth year that fundraisers begin to generate significant output from their prospect portfolios. (See adjacent graph.) Once a gift officer turns that corner, their output continues to grow at substantial rates.
  • Relationship-Building Requires… Relationships. BWF’s finding that gift officers require ramp-up time before generating significant returns from their portfolio should not be surprising. Major gift fundraising is a relationship-based endeavor, and relationships cannot be built overnight. While the most important relationships are always between the donor and the organization, the connection between a donor and a fundraiser is crucial. Only through a series of conversations and contacts can a gift officer come to understand a donor’s interests, capacity, motivations and readiness. And moving through that process requires the donor to have a substantial level of comfort with and trust in the fundraiser who is their principal contact. Frequent changes in fundraisers interrupts and delays the process—or even terminate it if a new gift officer doesn’t quickly pick up the ball again.
  • Longevity Yields a Better Portfolio. Another reason it takes a few years for gift officers to begin tapping the capacity of their assigned prospects is that new fundraisers usually receive a “discovery” portfolio that will initially require numerous qualifying calls, many of which will result in prospects being dropped from consideration. Those dropped prospects will be replaced by others before this iterative process eventuallyBalancing Time And Dollar develops for each fundraiser a solid collection of genuine major gift donors. Our firm’s experience is that it takes gift officers 2-4 years to transition a discovery-oriented portfolio into one that is weighted toward bona fide donor prospects and will begin to produce significantly greater gift income. Those who leave a position prematurely don’t get to harvest the fruits of their labors.
  • Fundraisers are Measured by Funds Raised. Because the demand for good fundraisers outstrips the available supply, it is possible to move from job to job over a short period of time. It’s also possible for a newbie to get lucky with one or two big gifts early in their tenure, and parlay that into another job. But in the final analysis, effective fundraising is all about building relationships and closing big gifts. If you cannot one day point to a single multi-year tenure during which you showed progressive growth and demonstrated your ability to close multiple large gifts, you will have fallen short of your full potential:  You will have limited the philanthropic capacity of both the organizations you served and their donors, as well short-changed your own prospects for professional advancement and personal satisfaction.
  • Results Get Rewarded. We all want to be rewarded for our work, and we can sometimes convince ourselves that by leaving our current employer we’ll find better rewards elsewhere. Nonetheless, even in our present day culture of immediate gratification, rewards still have to be earned, and the process of earning them takes time. As I suggested earlier, unless gift officers allow themselves adequate time to fully explore their portfolios, develop relationships and produce results, those earned rewards won’t be forthcoming. Our firm’s experience is that truly productive fundraisers are highly prized, and institutions will act within reason to retain them. But a gift officer can’t expect such VIP treatment unless they’ve earned it, and they definitely cannot earn it during a short tenure.
  • Define Your Rewards and Go After Them. What are the rewards major gift officers want? Compensation, of course. But BWF’s 2014 survey of frontline fundraisers revealed that gift officers’ most desired rewards are actually not dollars but other less tangible items: A better prospect portfolio, professional development opportunities, information from and access to leadership, new challenges, and recognition. And you do have some control over these perquisites: Make a case to attend a workshop to Medalsdevelop a relevant new skill set. Suggest that you be involved in preparing a major solicitation. Ask to take on a new responsibility (that won’t interfere with your other duties).  And above all else, challenge yourself to become more strategic and engaged with your own best prospects–and thus produce more gift dollars.
  • Everyone Loves a Winner. If you allow yourself to learn, develop and grow as a major gift officer, then positive results should follow. It’s at that point–where you can show that you are knowledgeable and skilled; that you have developed a productive prospect portfolio; and that you have also demonstrated staying power at one or more organizations–that you can write your own ticket. Fundraisers with such a record are truly in short supply, and if you can show that you’re one of them, both your current and other organizations will covet your services.

It’s true that your success is not entirely your own responsibility nor completely under your control, so I also offer two caveats to my admonition to stay put:

  1. Your organization and supervisor also have obligations to position you to achieve and sustain success as a fundraiser: you need training, coaching, resources, support and opportunity. And not every organization is as supportive as it should be. But rather than fret about what’s missing, take charge of your own progress as much as you possibly can–which may include finding coaches and mentors outside your current organization.
  2. There are sometimes reasons to leave an organization before you are able to establish the long-term track record I have suggested, such as a truly unreasonable supervisor, a toxic work environment, lack of professional development or growth opportunities, or an otherwise an unstable organization. But take to heart the familiar maxim, “the devil you know may be better than the one you don’t.”

2015 dIf you are a major gift officer considering a job change in 2015, be sure that you first conduct an honest self-assessment of whether you have done all that you can to become the seasoned, knowledgeable, productive and stable fundraiser that will be prized by your current and/or prospective organizations. And if you choose to leap, be sure you’re not doing it impulsively and that you have full knowledge of where you’ll be landing.

Otherwise, stay put. Instead, challenge yourself this year: make the most of your prospect portfolio, enhance critical skills, and take other actions that will increase your value. Make 2015 a year in which you, your organization and your future career prospects will become better, stronger, more productive, and well positioned for future success.

And continue following our blog, too: In subsequent posts we’ll be sharing additional insights into specific things you can do this year to enhance your performance, work more effectively with colleagues and supervisors, and position yourself for long-term success.

A New Year’s Resolution List for Leaders to Consider Right Now

Something Worth Reading: Those We Lead Tend to Live Up (or Down) to Our Expectations

MFL1Although Steve Browne’s recent blog post for TheHiringSite, How We See Others: The Role of the Talent Advisor, is directed at human resources professionals, I suggest that his provocative observations and recommendations have equal relevance for those of us in the advancement field who have responsibility for the success of fundraisers and other professionals.

Browne’s post is concise and simple, but its take-away is powerful: Stop focusing on why your employees and teams might be problematic and instead focus on their strengths and possibilities:

You need to understand the Pygmalion Effect*… [It] states that people will behave how you see them. If you think someone is a problem, they will be one. If you think they are talented, they will perform.

Perhaps Browne’s post resonates with me because during my career I have both delivered and received messages that conveyed low expectations or a lack of confidence. And I know from those personal experiences that when a supervisor encourages an individual, they frequently go on to overachieve; however, when an employee receives more criticism than praise or otherwise senses a lack of support from their supervisor, they will not be motivated to expend additional effort to excel–and indeed often respond in quite the opposite manner.

MFL2I suggest that all of us who supervise fundraisers and other advancement professionals follow Browne’s advice and start thinking of those we lead not as staff or FTEs but as “talent” with untapped potential; likewise, we should also begin to view ourselves not as managers but as “talent advisors”–coaches and mentors whose objective is to empower our own team members to grow, stretch and make the most of their abilities.

And if we do that, then perhaps–just as Professor Henry Higgins’ attitude changed toward Eliza Doolittle–we will soon “become accustomed to” the unique attributes and contributions of our own employees and thus find ourselves equally downcast about the possibility of losing these valuable partners.


 * For those unfamiliar with Pygmalion, it is the 1912 George Bernard Shaw play upon which My Fair Lady–both the 1956 Broadway play and 1964 movie (source of the scene with Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn posted above)–are based. Shaw, in turn, took his play’s name from a character in Greek mythology.