Fundraisers report that money is the number one reason they leave their jobs [See Part I of this two-part series here]. While I do believe too many fundraisers are underpaid relative to their skill sets and performance, I’ve a hunch it’s not the real chief culprit for fundraiser dissatisfaction. What is?
Fundraisers also report that lack of help from chief executives, boards, and other staff members is a big reason for their dissatisfaction (The Chronicle, January 17, 2013). Likewise, the fact that many nonprofit leaders don’t understand what it takes to be an effective development leader (The Chronicle, March 18, 2012) creates significant frustration. Too often development directors are shoved in a corner and told: “go raise money.” Sorry, this doesn’t work.
Effective development is a team sport. Without real access to other team members — staff and leaders who are setting strategic direction for the organization — fundraisers are crippled in their ability to communicate effectively with prospective donors. This makes them feel marginalized at best; stupid at worst. Trust me, I’ve been there. I’ve had board members ask me about issues of which they assumed I was aware (of course they assumed; I worked full time at a senior level for the organization whereas they attended a monthly meeting). I just had to nod and pretend to understand. I don’t enjoy pretending.
Effective development requires supportive infrastructure. Too often organizations create a single position without investing in support staff, systems and a culture of philanthropy required to sustain fundraising success. Without these pre-conditions no one individual can be effective. It’s a waste of resources and becomes a vicious cycle [See Stop the Nonprofit Fundraising Treadmill: 3 Reasons I Want to Get Off].
Effective development requires relegating the one-person development shop to the dust bin. Unless EVERYONE participates in resource development it won’t happen, at least not to the extent that you need it to. The more folks involved, the more friends you’ll have. Your donor doesn’t care which department the person they’re talking to is in. They have one experience of your organization. And the best development director in the land cannot overcome shoddy customer service. Or lack of understanding that we’re all in this together.
Effective development requires a culture of philanthropy. A customer service and donor-centered approach that must be embraced by the entire organization. Otherwise, short-term transactional fundraising is conducted. Long-term transformational relationship building does not happen. People give to people. People who are there.
Effective development requires a relationship-focused approach that puts friendraising before fundraising. What happens when you get too busy, overwhelmed and stressed? I’ll bet you have little time for your friends. A development professional who has no time to make friends will do your organization little good.
Effective development requires an investment in people. Investing will increase your capacity to produce. Penny pinching will not. Nonprofits tend to be penny wise and pound foolish when it comes to spending money to make money. Plus, they too often have dysfunctional work environments that turn their employees into slaves.
Effective development requires operating more effectively so as not to leave money on the table. It’s not about giving fundraisers the cushy life. It’s about giving them the support, respect and satisfaction that will motivate them to work optimally.
Effective development requires letting staff play to their strengths. No one is good at everything. If you ask folks to multi-task ad nauseum (talk to donors, submit grant proposals, write press releases, run events, build your website, run mail merges, order supplies and take on “other tasks as assigned”) you’ll get a diluted mess. It’s not practical, and years of strength-based leadership research show that it simply doesn’t work over the long term.
If you relieve staff of tasks that they hate, you’ll get enhanced productivity [See Big Changes Help Hospital Attract More Big Gifts Much Faster]. This is a similar approach to the one taken by Gallup Strengths Finder, which has been used in businesses worldwide for some time. The premise is that playing to people’s strengths is infinitely more productive than playing to their weaknesses. It’s too common for organizations to have annual evaluations that pick out the ONE thing someone does not do well; then spend the majority of the conversation developing a plan to help them improve. The reverse makes much more sense. Have folks do more of what they’re naturally good at; less of what they’re not good at.
Folks who don’t work in nonprofits think nonprofit work is easy. It’s not. Nonprofit employees work hard. The good ones have strong business skills (which they could easily apply to the for profit sector should they choose to do so). They also have families and expenses and deserve some time to enjoy the fruits of their labors.
I love the suggestion that having a more balanced life makes fundraisers better conversationalists and more interesting to donors. [see Penelope Burk’s comment in the Chronicle of Philanthropy]. What an excellent point! All work and no play makes “Dollar Divas” and “Money Machers” dull girls and boys. [See 7 Practical Ways to Play at Work, Feel Better and Achieve More and Why You May Be Dull at Work: What You Can Do to Change].
Philanthropy is a passionate business. By beating down our fundraisers until they are too tired and frustrated to see clearly, we knock all the heart and soul out of them. This is not good for people, or business.
What do you think?
If you’re the employer, how do you attract and keep good staff? If you’re the employee, what motivates you to stay put?
Photo: Flickr Alex Proimos