Insights
Teams
4 min Read
August 4, 2017

7 Ways to Keep Your Nonprofit Development Team Intact

Amy Eisentein

Once you’ve hired experienced communications staff, how do you keep them happy and productive? Leading fundraising consultant, Amy Eisenstein, shares simple recommendations to strengthen relationships with your expert communicators and advice for keeping them on your team for the long haul.

In my last video, I talked about the importance of development staff staying at their jobs and not job hopping. Today’s video is directed more at Executive Directors in an effort to help you keep your development staff members longer.

Attention Executive Directors

As you may know from experience, there’s no worse feeling than when a staff member quits or you need to fire them.

Today I want to talk about how to prevent both of those things, so that you can keep your development staff for years or even decades.

The reason this is important is that fundraising is really about relationships. Every time a development staff member leaves, you need to start over. All the relationships that person developed while working at your nonprofit are compromised. Your organization suffers, your donors suffer, and you lose precious fundraising ground.

If you like your development director and believe they are doing a good job, you should do everything in your power to keep them.

7 Ways to Retain Your Nonprofit Development Staff

Here are 7 ways to keep your development staff (in no particular order). Best of all, most of these are low or no cost.

1. Give more gratitude.
Everyone loves to be appreciated. How often do you say “thank you” and “great job” to your development staff members? Those two words said often and with sincerity go a long way to keep your team happy.

2. Provide a raise.
Yes, there’s no getting around it. Many development directors leave for a higher salary. You may not think you can afford to pay them more, but just think about how much it will cost you when they leave. The fundraising ground you’ll lose… the donor relationships that are compromised.

In addition, you’ll lose time and money from having a staffing void, you’ll need to retrain a new staff member, and spend money on the hiring process. Replacing a good fundraising staff person can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 or more in lost fundraising revenue and costs associated with bringing on a new staff member.

So why not save yourself the trouble and just give your existing staff members a raise?

3. Allow for flex time.
I realize you might be uncomfortable with flex time, but the reality is that most fundraising professionals work more than 40 hours per week. They’re expected to be available in the evenings and on weekends for events and meetings.

So why not provide a little flex time so they can drop their kids off at school, take care of important personal tasks, or even just avoid some rush hour traffic.

4. Be generous with time off.
Around your events or busy times, offer a few extra days off. There’s no cheaper way to create good will and loyalty among staff members.

Also, consider sending staff members home early or even at 5:00 (if they normally work later). Insist they leave to be with their families, get home in time to exercise, or even simply rest and relax. It will come back to you tenfold in hard work and loyalty in days and months to come.

5. Encourage training and continuing education.
Training and educational opportunities are a huge perk for most staff members. If you don’t have a large budget for training, offer to give staff paid time off to attend trainings on their own. Also, consider splitting the cost of training with them. After all, you’re both getting something out of it.

Not only is staff training good for staff, but it’s good for you too. Research shows a significant return on investment for meaningful training opportunities like CFRE, multi-day conferences and college level courses. In fact, recent research found that meaningful major gift training yields an average of $37,000 in additional major gifts raised. That seems well worth the cost of a $2,000 or even $3,000 conference or course.

6. Provide autonomy and room for growth.
Don’t micromanage. Trust you development staff member to do a good job. Give them increasing levels of responsibility and trust them to work directly with board members and large donors. Then, simply check in and hold them accountable — but trust them to do their work on their own. They’ll be happier for it.

7. Allow work from home.
Have a great staff member or want to hire one you can’t afford? Consider a work-from-home arrangement. Maybe not full time, but one or two days per week to start.

As someone who does work from home, I rarely work an 8 hour day. But I’m much more productive because I don’t have any colleagues interrupting me or impromptu meetings that keep me from getting the important stuff done.

Remember — it’s not about the quantity of hours worked, it’s about quality of work done.

Please also check out my recent post on how to create happy, healthy nonprofits.

In the meantime, what else have you tried to keep your development staff members happy and productive? Leave a comment and share your ideas.

Amy Eisenstein, ACFRE, is one of the country’s leading fundraising consultants. She’s raised millions of dollars for dozens of nonprofits through event planning, grant writing, capital campaigns, and major gift solicitations. She has a real talent for making fundraising simple and accessible for her clients and followers.

Related Content