Relating to our relational fundraisers

by Jini Stolk

Hiring again?

An edition of Philanthropic Trends Quarterly which I’ve been rereading deals with retention and turnover of fundraising staff as an ongoing challenge for many nonprofit organizations. And don’t we know it.

It points to a national study of nonprofit fundraising in the U.S. by CompassPoint funded by the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund which found that the routine “changing of the guard” in fundraising is an impediment to growth. “I think it behooves us to ask why this issue is so persistent”, says Marnie Spears, CEO of KCI about Canadian trends. “I worry that there may be a tendency to oversimplify and point fingers when looking to understand the issue and its causes. Junior level staff saying employers aren’t providing enough support. Senior level staff saying their boards’ expectations are too high and that they don’t understand fundraising. Board members saying there isn’t sufficient leadership skill and acumen in the fundraising talent pool. And therein lies the dilemma that we face – they’re all right.”

Very interesting, especially in a time where Relationship Fundraising, a donor-based approach to raising money, has convinced us all that developing and preserving the relationship between donors and organizations is essential. We are being called on to create meaningful one-on-one connections, and are told to be sure that “every communication is answered quickly, sincerely, and effectively, and every donation acknowledged.” Of course this is a minimum of good manners, let alone good fundraising, but it’s downright difficult when staff is coming and going.  

Important and new gifts should be asked for personally, in a face-to-face meeting that’s a conversation not a presentation.Your job is to graciously and enthusiastically convince the donor (or prospective donor) that it is your honor to meet with them. It is your pleasure. It’s fun. You like to be eyeball-to-eyeball. You have to want to do this. You have to be genuine.”

So now we know what kind of person we’re looking for when we hire a fundraiser.

Philanthropic Trends includes a People Pipeline which relates best practices in fundraising to the best ways to recruit and retain fundraising staff. I found it to be eye-opening: it’s really not all about paying the highest possible salaries.

The Globe and Mail tells us there are four strategies in achieving greater organizational success: select managers with natural talent for managing; select staff with the right talents for the specific role they’ll be filling; engage employees by creating a culture which cares about and finds ways to engage them; and focus on your staffs’ strengths.

It sounds well worth the effort of making a conscious decision to integrate these tactics into your hiring practices.


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