7 Steps to Retain Your Fundraisers
Challenges with a supervisor were cited as the most common reason for voluntary resignation among charitable fundraising professionals, according to my research as a certified fundraising executive and graduate student at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. Focus group respondents revealed a need for leaders to better configure the shared values, style, structure, systems, staffing and strategy within their organizations.
The study’s findings were used to construct seven corrective action steps for nonprofit leaders managing the daily activities of charitable fundraisers.
Step 1: Adopt shared values
Ask those you lead what they value. Mission is “what” you do. Vision is “why” you do it. Shared values are “how” you do it. You cannot effectively lead without an understanding of “how.” In well-aligned organizations, shared values undergird and fuel the execution of purpose and promise. Fundraisers want to feel appreciated. When leaders solicit input from fundraisers, it produces a feeling of appreciation. Fundraisers report when organizational leaders listen they feel respected.
Step 2: Assume a value-driven leadership style
Seek to influence, not to control. You garner deeper adherence and allegiance with a value-driven leadership style. Fundraisers want to see the manifestation of shared values. Remind all leaders in your organization to pay attention to patterns and behavior. Leaders are signal senders. Fundraisers value open communication. Do not allow positional power to forge barriers that threaten channels of expression. Fundraisers report clear communication is one action to prevent resignation.
Step 3: Assess and adjust organizational structure
Fundraisers desire better ways to do their work. It may be time to evaluate how the organization achieves its mission. Fundraisers frequently conveyed a feeling of departmental detachment. Fundraisers believe leaders can more effectively link the functions of development to the overall functions of the organization. Continue to clearly define operational boundaries; simply heighten the opportunity for cross-departmental collaboration and communication.
Step 4: Agree to realistic fundraising strategies
Fundraisers desire specific goals and realistic fundraising strategies. Remember, you can’t obtain the goal without viable strategies. Note: The magical money tree doesn’t exist. Solicit the opinions and perspective of a strategy prior to adoption of the goal. Encourage dissenting opinions and alternative viewpoints (this can highlight threats and vulnerabilities, allowing even stronger execution). Fundraisers report high levels of frustration when organizations seek funds without proven strategies. Fundraisers are most satisfied when strategy development is collaborative. Involve your fundraisers in strategy.
Step 5: Attain fair systems
Resource allocation and reward systems are important to fundraisers. Absence of institutional support or lack of systems is identified as a cause for resignation. Fundraisers need resources in order to garner resources. Meet with your fundraising team to identify areas that should be resourced. When adopting fundraising goals, exhibit sensitivity. Integrate fairness in performance measurement and compensation. Fundraisers reveal this metric helps them discern their worth to the organization.
Step 6: Acquire and assign qualified people
Fundraisers rely heavily on others. Competent and emotionally mature team members can increase the satisfaction of a fundraiser. Recruit seasoned fundraisers based upon demonstrated success. Once you define the organizational structure, give careful consideration to staffing, particularly management. Do not assume a successful fundraiser wants to manage others or the department. Recruit to augment the skills of existing fundraisers and to support future organizational goals.
Step 7: Agree to professional development
Fundraisers want to sharpen skills. Since fundraisers craft strategies around proven techniques, they value exposure to verified best practices as well as innovative techniques and technology. Encourage, promote and resource professional development for fundraising professionals at all levels.
Tycely Williams, CFRE, is president of the Association of Fundraising Professionals Washington D.C. Metro Area Chapter and director of major fifts for the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @tycely