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What to Do When Your Fundraiser Quits

Because of the high level of turnover in fundraising, you’ll either find yourself in a new position or hiring a new employee. Today, I will share four ways to reduce the impact of turnover on non-profit fundraising, but, first, I want to share a story:

In 2009, soon after being named vice president of Memorial Health Foundation, I had lunch Mrs. Kay Scardino, then 92 years old and widow of Peter Scardino, MD, who had helped open Memorial Hospital decades before.

What I learned during that lunch and from subsequent conversations and old newspaper articles quickly changed me from the new VP to a knowledgeable leader. I repeated Mrs. Scardino’s stories many times over the years.

Fundraising has a super high turnover rate. Most on-line resources suggest your new hire will be around for only 16 to 18 months. How do you mitigate the impact of turnover on your outcomes?

Here are four recommendations to quickly focus your new hire on their key objective – to raise more money to support your mission.

1. Quickly share the organization’s history.
After Mrs. Scardino explained the roles of legendary physicians, Congressional funding, and World War II, I then shared those stories during tours with new prospects and during meetings with board member nominees. Understanding the origin of an organization is motivating and inspiring, and knowing the history of founders and key leaders gives you immediate credibility.

2. Hire an executive whose skills match your organization’s needs.
It’s true: Many mega city non-profits are large enough to hire what I call the “puppeteer leader,” who simply manages a team of fundraisers. The reality for most community non-profits, however, is very different: The organization’s executive actually needs to fund raise.

Before hiring a new leader, assess the organization: Do your budget and current fundraising staff enable you to hire an executive based on their operational experience and subject matter expertise? Or, does your new leader need a quantifiable history of fundraising? It isn’t fair to the organization or the new leader if this isn’t clarified up front.

3. Immerse your new hire in the community. Throughout my career, my “bosses” shared their community relationships, introduced me to board members, and opened the door to existing sponsors. Because of their team approach, I didn’t remain “new” very long.

Some say trust must be earned. I suggest that early on you explain accountability and organizational hierarchy, and then, just trust! My “bosses” and boards brought me along to meetings, clubs, and receptions; therefore, we were able to fundraise more quickly.

4. Train, then give access to donor data. If you’re a professional fundraiser, you know that data management is both the key to growing gifts and the bane of daily work due to complex and disconnected software systems. The sooner your development staff member can access and work in your database, the sooner they can ask for a gift! Budget for training, and then, expect accountability for keeping data up to date and accurate.

Turnover is inevitable, but you can mitigate its impact on your mission, reputation, and fundraising by following these suggestions!


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