PMA Consulting, LLC

Six Steps For Retaining Talented Fundraisers

The 48th AFP International Conference on Fundraising in Chicago provided valuable sessions covering a wide range of topics. One session in particular – “I’m Leaving” by Penelope Burk, spoke to issues many PMA clients are facing – retaining talented fundraisers.

Penelope Burk, President of Cygnus Applied Research Inc., is finishing three years of research on the causes of premature staff turnover in fundraising on the heels of her third book, “I’m Leaving…How to Hold Onto Good Fundraisers and Make Much More Money.”

Burk highlighted many of the same sentiments PMA addresses with its clients and touched on six vital points to improve retention:

1. Understand how staff retention makes money.
Every time an organization has to fill a recently vacated position, you lose money. Time and resources have to be spent on everything from recruiting, hiring, training and implementing new staff. Keeping good employees from the onset will help improve bottom lines.

2. Be more flexible on salary/benefits while being more insistent on meeting bottom-line results.
Salary and benefits should be current with the times and able to be modified as needed. With that flexibility, there should also be a defined standard that should be met from the employee side.

3. Promote from within as a policy.
A staff that knows there is room for advancement is more likely to perform at a higher level. A motivated staff makes for better morale and a happier work setting – both keys to keeping everyone with the organization.

4. Divide jobs into progressive career steps.
Clearly defined roles that include logical steps for advancement make a staff more productive. Not only will employees appreciate the clarity, evaluating staff and potential promotions becomes easier as well.

5. Hire more skillfully and redefine the prospect pool.
Understanding the skills an organization is lacking makes for a better hiring process. Instead of hiring from the same prospect pool as previous attempts, seeking out individuals with desired skill sets will make sure an organization and candidate are a right fit.

6. Build your career more strategically.
Ruling with an iron fist is counterproductive. Allowing your staff to work independently and valuing their input are great first steps to make your organization a desirable workplace. If a talented fundraiser has to leave, your actions and reputation may determine whether the replacement is someone you want, and not someone for which you’re settling.