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Revolving Door of Fundraising Turnover

Did you know the average fundraising professional changes jobs about every 18 months, or less? According to recent research by renowned author, speaker and fundraising futurist Penelope Burk, the average amount of time a fundraiser stays at his or her job is 16 months. As seasoned fundraising professionals know, there is a time investment to build key relationships with donors. Clearly, that is not enough time for a front-line fundraiser to be successful.

An article in Philanthropy Daily referred to a study by CompassPoint and the Eveleyn and Walter J. Hass Fund which found the reasons for high turnover are:

· Unrealistic expectations

· Lack of investment in fundraising tools and systems

· Unengaged leadership and board

· Poor culture of philanthropy

The findings of this study are reinforced again by Penelope Burk, who has written about the lack of opportunity, lack of money, and clash of culture that so many fundraising professionals have to deal with on a daily basis.

True story: A few weeks into a new job I learned my goal was to raise $20 million dollars, by myself, in one year. This organization didn’t have the donor base nor the history to support that goal; it was simply leadership’s desired goal. In case you are wondering that goal was not accomplished, but I did stay at the organization for over five years and built a successful fundraising track record.

Relationships are just as important within an organization as they are with your donors and clients. As a nonprofit leader it is your responsibility to make sure your fundraising team is compensated fairly and challenged appropriately so that they will remain committed to the mission of the organization.

  • Support professional development for your team and other ways to promote and reward internally.

  • Alleviate fundraiser burn-out by investing in staff retreats and social activities. Recognize that an investment in personnel is an investment in the organization.

  • Offer competitive salaries and benefits and build in other perks.

In my experience, compensation is important, but adequate resources and support from the leadership can make a huge difference. For fundraisers looking at a new career opportunity, use the interview process to ask questions.

The leadership of a nonprofit organization should make sure the required resources are available and you are committing time during the onboarding process to fully integrate new personnel. Understand that even the best development person will need time to get up to speed and learn about the organization. Just to be clear, it is unethical for a professional fundraiser to bring a list of donors from their previous employer. Those relationships belong to that organization.

Success comes and people are loyal when everyone works together and supports each other.


Michelle Crim, CFRE

Dynamic Development Strategies can help. We offer coaching and fundraising services for our nonprofit clients. We specialize in startup and smaller nonprofits because we understand your challenges. Please contact us for more information.

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