How Do We Attract, Develop and Retain Good Fundraisers?
What's it like for emerging fundraising leaders who are looking for a bright future in the nonprofit sector? At last week's International Fundraising Congress, many of us were transfixed by a provocative conversation about "The Emerging Fundraising Leadership Challenge."
International fundraising guru Tony Elischer, managing director of THINK Consulting Solutions, and five dynamic women — Rory Green, Maria Ros Jernberg, Joanne Warner, Elise Ledsinger and Lucy Gower — led the conversation.
(By the way, if you have not discovered Rory Green's hilarious Fundraiser Grrl Tumbler feed, go there right now and subscribe for some much-needed laughs!)
Is fundraising leadership 'pale, stale and male'?
Do you agree? Let's talk about the "stale" part of the above sentence. Everything is changing about fundraising today. Our industry is being blown apart by new technology and new ideas. The way we communicate is changing drastically. What donors expect and respond to is very different.
So the stale ideas that are prevalent in so many nonprofit boardrooms and executive suites are clearly not going to take us where we need to go. And stale ideas are not going to keep talented fundraisers around. According to the speakers, 31 percent of fundraisers left their jobs because of an "old-school culture of fundraising."
What's the old-school culture look like?
- It's when the president of a college tells me "I don't know whether to believe my staff." (This has happened to me more than once!)
- It's when the board members think they know more about fundraising than staff does.
- It's when your leaders aren't willing to try out anything new —just sticking with the same old, stale fundraising efforts year after year.
- It's when a toxic culture squashes young fundraisers' ideas and dreams.
Penelope Burk found that 40 percent of fundraisers said that conflicting opinions on how to raise the money was making them leave their jobs.
Try a 'risk' or 'new strategies' fund as part of your development budget
Wouldn't it be wonderful if you had a budget item for new technology or to try out new ideas? Remember, this small pool of money very likely will pay itself back before you know it!
I like fundraisers who say "give me $1 and I'll give you $4 back within two years." That's what a risk fund can help support. This way you won't have to deal with the perennial, "We don't have it in the budget."
If you have an innovative culture, your staff feels supported to try out new technologies. And you'll probably emerge on top in a few years too.
Could it be that the leaders of charities do not appreciate fundraising or talented fundraisers? Whoa! They don't appreciate fundraising? And/or they don't appreciate "internal fundraising competence"?
Could it be that there is something "fundamentally wrong with the internal culture of many organizations," in that fundraisers, and particularly talented young women fundraisers, are not respected, appropriately rewarded or listened to?
(I have to say, what else is new here?)
If you want to be successful, fundraising needs to be integrated into every aspect of your organization. Everyone needs to understand fundraising and his or her role in supporting donors and the overall fundraising effort. We can all do a better job creating a culture that inspires risk and change:
- Can you make employees feel important and valued?
- Can you set a good example of work-life balance?
- Can you create a culture that values the work fundraisers do?
- Can you make your employees feel safe and supported?
Do you want to keep your best young talent?
If we want to keep the best young talent, then we need to make sure we appreciate and recognize "the skills and insights of the next generation of leaders."
So come on, everybody — check out the new "Grow it! Be it! Value it!" campaign. There's an emerging movement to value talent, invest in the next generation, be open to change, and look for and nurture new fundraisers coming up in the ranks!
Leave me a comment and let me know what you think!