Some of the most recent literature indicates that the average tenure of a Development Director is eighteen months, and the level of turnover at the junior staff levels aren’t much better.

The following is the first of a 3-part series on ending the churn in your Development Department.

Investing in your development staff takes on many forms. It means compensating them appropriately through salary and benefits; putting resources toward their ongoing professional development; and making sure that they have the tools and back-office support they need in order to do their job well.

Salary and Benefits: Being able to offer a job candidate a competitive salary and benefits package (including health insurance and a 401K or 403b plan) is important, however, fundraising salaries are rising and if you’re a smaller organization, it can be difficult to compete with opportunities that come up at larger institutions. Even when you are unable to provide a financial offer to a job candidate, think about the other benefits that you can provide. Things like generous time off, flexibility in working hours, and the ability to work from home as needed may attract candidates who put a preference on work-life balance.

Professional Development: Sometimes, keeping your employees challenged and fulfilled means making sure that they have the opportunity to develop their skills so that they can progress at your organization and in their careers on the whole. Make sure your employees know how much money and time they are able to spend on conferences, webinars, training sessions, books, and other forms of professional development over the course of the year. If your financial resources for professional development are more limited, there is still plenty of support that you can provide. Work with your employees to set specific goals for self-training and help them locate low-cost resources to help them meet those goals. There are several fantastic organizations, for instance, providing helpful content free of charge online.

Tools and Back Office Support: Your Development staff cannot do the great work of raising funds to support your organization if the department is not properly outfitted to ensure that donor prospecting, cultivation, and stewardship can happen effectively. This means that not only do you need to have tools like a CRM (donor database), but you need to work with your Development Department to provide the staff support to keep the data clean and updated, and to make sure that laborious tasks like large mailings can be handled without distracting from other important projects.  Equally as important is that your fundraisers have access to donor research—whether that research is conducted in-house or outsourced—to help them prioritize their prospect lists.

These three areas of staff investment can go a long way toward employee retention in your development department—and the effect of not making these investment is potentially huge, especially if a staff member leaves and the position sits empty for several weeks or months. Save yourself the stress and costs of high development staff turnover by investing in your team as professionals, supporting their growth, and making sure that they are set up for success.


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