PMA Consulting, LLC

Identifying Talent: Nonprofit Development Professionals

Call it a changing of the guard or just restlessness, but 2011 featured increased turnover at many of the Charlotte region’s nonprofit organizations. Following several years of stasis in the wake of the economic downturn, volunteer and staff leaders heightened the assessment of their human resources and started making changes.

On the other side, staff members seeking a new challenge struck out for new opportunities and positions of leadership. But unlike past years, where staff changes may have resembled a form of nonprofit musical chairs, emerging talent was the theme most often discussed with members of the PMA team.

Numbers to be released in the April report from the National Nonprofit Employment Trends Survey will give us a better indication as to just how nonprofits are handling turnover. In the previous two years, nationally, we actually saw a decrease from 21% to 13% in turnover. However, many of the reasons cited in this post has PMA leaning toward a higher number locally.

PMA has identified key areas for Development Professionals in 2011:

1. Ambitious, Proactive Development Leaders – The economic downturn resulted in two types of employees – those content to blame the economy for poor fundraising returns, and those who rose to the challenge with dynamic efforts. Organization leaders weary of excuses are seeking the latter in increasing measure.

2. Recent Transplants – The notion of the development professional’s rolodex, with scores of potential donors waiting to support your mission, is largely a thing of the past. Good process, innovation and critical thinking are rising expectations, and professionals who exhibit these traits are strong candidates, whether longtime residents or brand new to the region.

3. Career Transition from For-Profit Sector – The sector has grown as individuals from the for-profit sector set their sights on nonprofit development positions. Board seeking, results-oriented professionals with experience in strategy development and implementation are increasingly looking to those in career transition as a source of fresh perspective.

4. The Blocked Development Professional – In development departments across Charlotte, emerging talent has hit a ceiling, with department heads unlikely to leave. Those who engage in community activities, network and devote themselves to professional development opportunities are apt to rise to the top of HR searches.

Will these trends continue? It is very likely. Nonprofit boards want to return to strategic planning and visioning. It becomes all the more important that nonprofits seek out candidates who are truly up to the task of working for an organization. When you’re able to find individuals who are both emotionally and intellectually involved with the nonprofit, turnover rates will decrease, even when tough times emerge.