Meeting Today’s Challenges With New Fundraising Leadership and Investment in Your Development Team
Fluctuations in the economy, the ongoing impact of the pandemic, and the changing focus on philanthropic priorities, among other factors, are increasing the challenges nonprofits of every kind face in fundraising. Whether internal issues, external challenges or both are affecting your ability to maintain and advance your mission, searching for and securing strong fundraising leadership and investing more resources in your development team can help you build a more resilient nonprofit organization.
Recruiting a New Fundraising Leader
Recruiting a new fundraising leader can improve the strength, focus, and direction of your fundraising efforts and bring new energy to your nonprofit. Before launching the recruitment process, it is helpful to assess your current strengths, deficiencies and needs to better understand what you will want in your next fundraising leader.
Assessing the current strengths and weaknesses of your fundraising program is crucial. Identifying fundraising functions that require greater investment will hone your search and prioritize candidates who can help close the gap. This kind of reflection will also allow for a more candid and informative conversation with candidates who will appreciate the clarity and transparency regarding your development program.
Understanding how much support and education on fundraising your board needs is also good to know in the search process. Candidates will often want to understand the board’s role in fundraising. To align expectations, be prepared to share with the candidate whether your board actively fundraises, is not highly engaged but ideally would be, or does not need to be involved. Knowing this will inform your decision on either a candidate skilled at relationship building and motivating the board or one who understands and accepts that the board will not be a source of contributions.
If there is a history of your CEO working collaboratively with the head of fundraising, you will want to include them in the search process and have them outline the characteristics and skills they want to see in a fundraising partner. If fundraising will be solely in the development leader’s hands, let them know they will be the sole face of fundraising and the primary liaison with the board and major donors.
In addition, it is helpful to understand if you want to hire a fundraising leader who is experienced in multiple areas and possesses strong management skills, or one with expertise in the areas your organization most needs to grow. Knowing this ahead of time will help guide your search process and candidate assessment and lead to a more honest conversation with candidates.
Growing Your Fundraising Team to Increase ROI
When looking to improve the ROI of your nonprofit, it may seem counterintuitive to spend more resources by investing in and growing your frontline fundraising team. However, doing so is one of the best ways to increase revenue, advance your mission and grow your impact.
With the right resources and support, an effective frontline fundraiser at a mid-sized nonprofit will secure enough gifts within their first year to fully offset the cost of their salary. By the end of their second year, they may bring in double their salary, and this ROI will grow exponentially as the fundraiser’s relationships deepen and their portfolio strengthens.
It’s also worth remembering that the best candidates are drawn to nonprofits that clearly invest in building all levels of its fundraising team. Candidates regard this as important as responsibilities, organizational mission and salary. If you want to attract and retain the best talent at all levels of your fundraising team, show them that you have the conditions to help the whole development team succeed.
While nonprofits face funding challenges today, operating with a scarcity mindset does not always equate to running a nonprofit effectively. Increasing spending on essentials like your development team is critical to scaling your growth. A general rule of thumb for a healthy cost per dollar raised is 25 to 30 cents. If you are significantly below that, you are running the risk of burnout and retention issues among your employees, which will cost you more in the end.
Whether it is finding new fundraising leadership, growing your fundraising team or both, focusing on improving and investing in your development capabilities can bring new energy, strength and resources to your nonprofit.
Suzanne Battit is a senior vice president and principal at the Development Guild DDI, a national consulting firm providing executive search, fundraising counsel and campaign services to nonprofit organizations.
Kieran McTague is senior vice president and director at Development Guild DDI, a national consulting firm providing executive search, fundraising counsel and campaign services to nonprofit organizations.