Recent blog posts have covered characteristics of a good major gift fundraising officer and how to find a good MGO. So now that you’ve found one, how do you keep them?
Employee retention consistently ranks high among nonprofit organizational challenges and the 2014 Nonprofit Employment Trends Survey listed fundraising/development as one of the most difficult positions to retain (after direct service positions and program/support staff).
The biggest challenge in retention cited is always inability to pay competitively (32%) and while this is certainly a real challenge, I believe there are other important factors involved in keeping employees happy and have written about both this and what motivates employees in past blog posts. In fact, a survey of 20,000 job quitters found that while 89% of employers believe that employees leave because of money, 88% of employees leave for reasons other than money. As someone who has job-hopped my fair share in my career, this rings very true to me. When you’ve already made your decision and have one foot out the door, it’s much easier to say you’re leaving for more money than it is to cite some of the top reasons mentioned in the survey such as lack of support, leadership or recognition from a supervisor; poor employee relations, bad hours, and favoritism.
All the above said, compensation is important. A major gift fundraising officer’s doppelgänger in the for-profit world is a salesperson. It is not uncommon for salespeople to make more than managers in other areas of a company who are “higher ranked” based on commissions. According to an article in The Chronicle of Philanthropy entitled “Incentive Pay Helps Keep Some Top Fund Raisers on the Job,” “Incentive-pay plans are still relatively rare, but they’re becoming more common at large nonprofit organizations, especially universities.” Virtually all current incentive-pay plans are careful to comply with ethical guidelines established by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education that prohibit major gift fundraising personnel from receiving commissions based on the amount of money they raise. Instead, plans are based on criteria such as the number of calls made, number of proposals presented, and number of times a dean or key administrator is brought in to meet with a potential donor and other goals around stewardship of existing donors. Incentive plans are not considered unethical by most charities and are one way to keep fundraisers motivated (and to keep them from wandering off in search of higher salaries). Nevertheless, incentive plans are still not the norm.
What is not controversial is the math that surrounds major gift fundraising. It remains the most cost-effective way to fundraise at an average cost-per-dollar-raised of $0.12 versus other fundraising activities such as acquisition mail ($1.50), events ($0.50) and renewal mail ($0.25). I am left scratching my head when a manager is willing to lose an MGO over $10,000 or even $20,000 in salary when they may be carrying a donor portfolio valued at ten to twenty times that or more. Add to this the plethora of research that exists that confirms the high cost of losing versus retaining an employee. Beyond the obvious direct costs associated with the job search, there are the indirect costs of lost knowledge and potentially lost donors and donations. Like the for-profit sector, it would behoove nonprofit organizations to recognize the unique value major gift fundraisers bring to their organization, the difficulty and cost in finding and replacing such talent, and compensate them accordingly.
Another statistic from 2014 Nonprofit Employment Trends Survey indicated that 65% of organizations with a telecommuting and/or flexible work policy said such a policy had a positive impact on both recruitment and retention, and yet only two out of five respondents said they had a virtual work policy. While it’s not the only low/no cost “perk” nonprofits can offer, it’s an important one, and it makes particularly good sense for major gift fundraising officers.
We have a client that recently hired a new director of development. The client is a sanctuary, located in a remote area and the executive director wanted them to office on-site, as the past director of development had. Luckily, we were able to make the ED realize that to do a good job, the DOD needs to be out of the office more than they are in it and as such, it would make more sense for them to be located in a nearby major city where they have easier access to major gift donors and will also have an easier time traveling to meet with donors. (This flexibility also enabled the organization to more easily attract the level of talent and experience they were seeking.)
Many major gift fundraising activities and meetings happen outside of the office and often outside of regular business hours as an MGO must work his or her schedule around that of their major donor prospects. Because of this, it makes sense to allow flexibility on hours and how the job is done and instead to focus on objectives and attaining goals.
Learning and Development
A 14-year ongoing engagement and retention survey found that within the nonprofit sector, Career Growth/Learning & Development was the second most cited reason for staying with an organization, behind Exciting/Challenging/Meaningful Work.
Our president, Daniel Neel, recently wrote a blog post on the characteristics of a good MGO. Many of the characteristics were related to personality because provided you hire the “right” personality, many of the skills necessary to become a good major gift fundraiser are teachable and coachable. The best employees value self-development and are always wanting to improve and learn – and value the opportunity to be able to do so – and aren’t these the employees you most want to keep? I will never understand organizations that fear investing in employee training and development because they worry that employees may leave. Um, yeah. Sure some employees will leave – they already do. But what if they stay? Don’t you want your staff to be as good as they possibly can be while you employ them? And if you are an optimist like I am, you believe what goes around comes around and investing in training will help you attract better job candidates – including ones who already have good training from another organization.
Many of the companies ranked among the Top 125 Companies for Training also happen to be among the Best Companies to Work For (based on 252,000 employee surveys); this is likely more than coincidence. Major gift fundraising officers are among the most important employees in your organization – they help ensure that there is sufficient funding to continue your mission – so it makes sense to invest in them.
Written by Lee Neel, Vice-President of Marketing, The Fundraising Resource Group. The Fundraising Resource Group helps non-profit organizations across the United States with fundraising feasibility studies, capital campaigns, annual giving campaigns, major gift fundraising, non-profit marketing, fundraising training, and other high-impact, high-return fundraising activities. For more about how we can help your non-profit achieve fundraising success, visit our website at www.thefundraisingresource.com or call 888-522-1492.