You’ve likely heard the expression, fundraising is about relationships.
You may also know that development director tenure can be very short. I’ve heard numbers as low as 14 or 16 months. I often think about what must be happening in nonprofits to make turnover in our sector so high — especially in a sector that depends on relationships for success.
What Makes Development Director Tenure so Short?
As a development director…
- Are you quitting?
- Are you getting fired?
- Are there unrealistic expectations?
- Is the job simply too difficult?
- Are you unprepared?
Whatever the reason, I know there’s a better way.
When development directors leave…
- it’s bad for organizations
- it’s bad for you personally and the other staff members you’re leaving behind
- it’s bad for donors
- it’s bad for our causes
In order to do my part in turning this negative trend around, one of my goals for this year is to do everything I can to help increase the average stay of development staff members at their organizations.
Part of that means getting to the root cause of why development directors are leaving their jobs so frequently and prematurely. (And if you’ve left a development job in the past, please leave a comment about why you’ve left and how long you lasted.)
2 Strategies to Stick with your Nonprofit Job
Here are two things I’d like you to try this year in an effort to stay at your job.
1. Set realistic goals and metrics, and provide regular updates.
Fundraising goals should be developed in conjunction with the entire team — executive director and development staff. Goals should never be handed down to the development team from the finance office or the board without consultation with the fundraising staff — this is a recipe for disaster.
Goals should not be based on the hole in your budget — you know, the difference between your expected expenses and revenue — or simply a percentage increase over last year. If you expect to raise more than you did last year, you need to give me a justification as to why that’s possible.
Ideally, you’ll be upping your retention efforts, trying strategies to increase major gifts, or even hiring a new staff member to help with the workload. These are all good reasons that you should be expected to raise more. But being expected to raise more simply because someone in finance wants you to is a terrible reason.
Fundraising goals should be set based on the prospective donors you have and the fundraising activities and events you have scheduled.
I’ll talk more about how to set appropriate goals and metrics in upcoming videos, so be sure to subscribe or join my list if you haven’t done so already.
2. Ask for what you want and need.
Development directors often hop from job to job looking for that perfect fit, or more flexible hours, or a better salary. Unfortunately, I’ve found that most nonprofits are messy — each in their own ways. So there’s probably no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
That being said, there are plenty of things that can make any job more enjoyable.
Start by working at an organization where you’re truly passionate about the mission. That will help other issues seem more bearable.
If you’re currently at a job and would stay with a few minor adjustments, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Here are some ideas:
- Flexible hours — this means coming in a little late on some days and working a little later on others. This often helps parents get their kids to school or pick them up on certain days.
- Work from home — if you have a boss who’s uncomfortable with a work from home arrangement, ask for a trial period of one or two months to see how it goes. Be sure to communicate well during this time and offer concrete deliverables.
- More vacation days — something you value to reboot and recharge. This is something organizations can easily offer without laying out additional funding.
- A raise — of course, most of us want to make more money, and better pay is often the reason development directors leave for another job.
However, if your current organization considers the opportunity cost of having to hire someone else — with respect to search fees, revenue lost from time without a development directors, and ramp up time of the new hire, it often makes financial sense to provide a raise of $5,000 to $10,000 to prevent a good development staff member from leaving.
Conversely, it’s very bad for your career and your resume to job hop, so think twice before doing so.
Lead with the benefits for THEM.
The key is to have a good reason for whatever you’re asking for and explain to your boss why this will benefit THEM.
For example, if you’re seeking flexible hours, let them know you will be more productive and less stressed knowing you can drop your child off safely at school and don’t need to be worried about them walking alone every day.
You can also make a case for working from home and saving time and energy on your commute. Not to mention, you won’t be distracted with colleagues poking their heads in your office with questions and pop up meetings.
There’s a whole post on my blog about How to Ask for What You Want that goes into additional detail about this and uses asking for a raise as an example.
Now I want to hear from you. So why have you left past development jobs? And what are some other things that might keep you at your job longer? Be sure to leave a comment.