Supply and Demand: Supply side economics does not work for fundraising staffs

30 06 2011

“Your name was given to me by….” How many times have you heard that as a recruiter, human resources staff member, or a chief development officer calls introducing themselves to you at a conference or on the phone.  I even knew a guy who hesitated sending his staff to conferences for fear of losing them.  Hiring quality staff, particularly major gifts officers, remains the bane of most non-profits existences. The bad economy never really caught up with fundraising. record unemployment does not seem to have solved the development officer shortage.

Should we worry about the staff members who are climbing up the development food chain for more responsibility or more money?  Probably not, who can fault someone who sees opportunity.  If anything, it should challenge supervisors to provide professional growth and to make staff feel appreciated and part of the team. What we probably need are more of those individuals!

We know from repeated research, that development staffs are most effective after year four with an organization.  Problem?  Absolutely!  When many frontline fundraising positions turnover well short of that peak period, how much impact can a staff member have?  As a profession we must improve our retention and success rate among staff members who struggle.  The cost of turnover is somewhere around 3-5x the annual salary of the staff member (No, this is not an excuse to pay staff less).

When hiring:

  • Hire judiciously: Take your time.  This is not a race and you don’t need to drag the process out, just invest time.  Have them spend a day with you.  Go to dinner, lunch, etc. You will learn a lot through extended conversations
  • References: Please! Please! Check them!  While the HR world has limited greatly what can or cannot be said in response to a reference request, what is said or not said speaks volumes.
  • On-boarding: Start new staff off right.  Have appropriate (and accurate) orientation programs, mentors, and be prepared to coach your hires to success (even world champions have coaches).

Strengthening fundraising hiring is good for philanthropy and most of all it is good for our organizations!  Good luck! – Mark Marshall




2 responses

18 04 2012
8 Secrets of Success « fundraisingoperations

[…] here are tremendous, particularly if your operational institutional memory walks out the door. Here’s a good look at the issue by my colleague, Mark […]

1 08 2013
essen gehen

Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you penning this
post plus the rest of the site is also very good.

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