Talent Tip #79: Two Solutions for Our Fundraising Talent Shortage
Last month I donned my Captain Obvious hat and wrote of our need for fundraisers. But I’m not a fan of pointing out problems without also providing solutions. So, this month, with a little help from numerous friends I heard from in the interim, we’re going to address ways to correct the problem.
As I see it, there are two main solutions to addressing our fundraising talent shortage.
- Expand the talent pool – When it comes to looking for fundraising talent, we’re working with a $12 Wal-Mart plastic kiddie pool when we should be searching in one that is Olympic-size. In order to expand, we need to bring in individuals (entry level, mid-career, and advanced professionals) without specific fundraising experience who have the personality and skills to become successful development officers and give them the training, mentoring, and opportunity they need to prosper.This can happen at the organization level and via talent development programs across the network. Investors in liberty should recognize this opportunity and support initiatives that open the door to an expanded bench of fundraisers.
- Retain the talent we have – The feedback I received after last month’s newsletter was robust and incredibly consistent: we often drive away good fundraisers.How? Well, the list of complaints I’ve heard is long, but here are some highlights:
- Pay – I’ll cut to the chase on this point: if you don’t reward your fundraisers for outstanding performance, there is a long line of other organizations that will happily poach them.
- Wasted talent – Apparently some nonprofits hire fundraisers and then chain them to a desk, not allowing them to forge relationships with donors. Sometimes it’s a trust issue; sometimes it’s an ego issue. Whatever the cause, if you hired a fundraiser to build relationships with donors, let him do it! From one friend in Washington, DC:
“If you hire someone to fundraise, let him go BLEEPing fundraise. Don’t delay in sending a qualified fundraiser into the field. That’s how talented people get antsy and start looking. Literally as I was typing this email, a colleague came into my office to share with me how his interview went with a major university’s development department. I’m sure it’s going to come as a shock to our Chief Development Officer when he says he’s leaving. But his time has been wasted here. Too bad the think tank community is about to lose another potentially good fundraiser.” On the other side of this coin, I heard from another fundraiser friend who recently started a new job with a growing, impressive group. It came as a pleasant surprise when the CEO invited him along to a key donor meeting just weeks after he started. Not only is this a great talent development strategy, but it’s a fabulous way to inspire staff to work harder and engender loyalty.
- Respect – A friend in the Northeast summed it up perfectly: “Fundraising is really the heart of any organization which relies on donations, pumping blood to the rest of the organization and leadership. Good fundraisers get out of the business and move on because they get fed up with being treated as an afterthought. I would have no problem fundraising at a senior level for an organization that “gets it” and treats their development operation as a key part of strategic management. And of course an integrated development function makes the organization stronger, because major donors want to know all they can about where their dollars are going and want to deal with people in the know.”
- Unrealistic expectations – A friend in the Lone Star State hit the nail on the head: “I’m amazed at how many nonprofits are struggling to keep good development directors. Too many nonprofits have unrealistic ideas of how to raise substantive money in sustainable means. Let’s face it: development directors aren’t rain-makers!”
This is my two cents; and, as always, I welcome your suggestions and ideas. After all, the success of the liberty movement hinges on our ability to keep the lights on.