Recruiting and Retaining the Best and Brightest
Even the largest, most progressive and successful development offices in the country find their staff members being aggressively hunted by the ever-multiplying cadre of niche recruiters. Just ask any one of the highest-performing fundraisers in your region how many recruiting calls they receive each month. (We’re usually successful in getting their interest when we learn they’re looking into other opportunities, simply because their CEO or board just doesn’t “get it.”)
The timeline for finding a replacement can take anywhere from six to 12 months, or more, and cost the organization roughly a year’s salary to rehire and recoup from precious donor relationships lost.
Lead, and they will follow
The best and brightest fundraising professionals are attracted to high-profile positions with the most successful nonprofits — those organizations admired for their mission delivery, fundraising success and executive and board leadership. Important gauges for attracting great candidates include a strong philanthropic culture, ambitious goals and records of achievement, quality professionals on the management team, and great collegiality among co-workers in the development office.
However, the leadership dynamics displayed by the organization’s CEO and board carry more weight than all other factors combined.
The old saying “it’s tough to soar like an eagle when you’re flying with turkeys” certainly applies here. When you don’t have the right leadership in place, nothing else works right. Successful development professionals expect to work for great leaders.
“The Credibility Factor: What Followers Expect from Leaders,” by James Louzes and Barry Posner, cites four qualities all good leaders possess:
- Honesty: truthful, ethical, know their own values, stand up for beliefs;
- Competence: capable, effective, have a proven track record, lead by example;
- Inspiring: enthusiastic, communicate dreams in ways that inspire, communicate shared values; and
- Forward Looking: see big picture and can point to each employee’s spot in it, identify constituents’ wants and needs, and can build consensus.
‘Engage’ your employees
When my firm takes on a search for a nonprofit looking to increase its fundraising performance, the first order of business is to clarify the expectations of the CEO and the board. We force them to consider “the terms of engagement” and define what they want and need.