3 ways CEOs can slow the revolving door

revolving door.A new report by CompassPoint called UnderDeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising is getting lots of press. Two of the most sensational headlines are that:

  • more than half of all fundraisers want to leave their job, some even the entire field of fundraising, and that
  • about 25% of CEOs want to fire their fundraiser.

You can read about the report on the Chronicle of Philanthropy and download the report on the CompassPoint website. The problem is systemic, far to involved to solve in one blog post. So here I want to offer suggestions for slowing the revolving door. Here are three suggestions for CEOs, Executive Directors, and boards. Next week, I will share three suggestions for development professionals.

3 Ways CEOs and Boards Can Hire Fundraising Professionals Worth Keeping

  1. Look at how many jobs you really need

    Although income for your nonprofit seems a pretty straight forward need, an effective fundraising requires conflicting skill sets. Good fundraising requires sales skills: an ability to get out of the office, meet people, reach targets, all in a way that develops a relationship that donors are excited to have. Slash-and-burn one-off fundraising isn't sustainable. Fundraisers need be learning fundraising copy and direct mail techniques. They need to work closely with the marketing person or team. But they shouldn't be responsible for the entire marketing plan since marketing success is measured differently than fundraising success.

    But a good fundraising program also requires the database skills to keep an accounting history solid enough for donors to feel confident and to stand up to an IRS audit.

    Effective fundraisers often don't have great database skills. Let alone accounting skills. Effective fundraisers need to see vision and possibility; accounting people need to be able to see holes and possible errors.

    Saddling a fundraiser with gift entry and accounting will cripple your program before it even gets started.

  2. Mutually agree on benchmarks

    As the CEO of your nonprofit, you and the board set the goals for your organization. But working with your fundraiser to set mutually agreeable benchmarks on reaching those goals will help you both. The benchmarks will free your fundraiser up to focus on what is important to the nonprofit. And they'll help you be able to evaluate the performance of the fundraising program.

    Fundraising isn't billing or charging fees. Telling your fundraiser that the board wants your organization to raise $100,000 in four months for a special project is unacceptable. Your donors are not ATMs. They don't come equipped with buttons to push that spit out cash. Your donors are human beings. They come equipped with emotions and a brain. They are evaluating every giving opportunity. Each gift needs to be earned each time.

    Your donors want to know why the project is important. And want to feel that your nonprofit is thankful for their gifts.

    Fundraising is more agricultural than mechanical. Seeds need planting, watering, and tending before they can be sustainably harvested.

    So as you're working with your fundraiser to set up goals, in addition to the goal of total dollars raised, think about adding:

    • number of face-to-face cultivation meetings with major gift prospects
    • number of solicitations
    • number of stewardship (thanking) meetings and communications

    That's just a start. If your fundraiser is responsible for direct mail and a fundraising event, you'll need to add some tasks for those areas while reducing some of the goals for the major gifts program.

    I recommend looking at this a work in progress. It may take three years for you and your fundraiser to determine the right level of activity to get the results you desire. But this sort of guide will also help you flush out people who don't want to be held accountable. Fundraisers come in all types, but all need to have the desire to be accountable to meeting goals.

    Expanding goals beyond just dollars raised will help your nonprofit have a strong fundraising program for years to come.

  3. Learn about fundraising

    Your education is for two reasons. First, you wouldn't tell your heart surgeon how to operate on you. Neither should you tell your fundraiser how to do their job. There is a growing body of real-life research that overrides your personal preferences. Chatty fundraising letters with a P.S. are more effective than letters you're used to. Your fundraiser's goal isn't to please your grade school English teacher. It's to raise the resources you need to do your job. Let them do it.

    The other reason for you to seek education is that, you are the most effective fundraiser in your organization. Everyone wants to talk to the leaders. To meet the people carrying the vision and leading the charge.

    And honestly, it's not your fundraising staff's responsibility to make every donor visit a slam dunk six-figure check signing. Fundraising is about relationships. No matter how crunched your time is, you need to learn to spend time thanking donors. It matters when they get a call from the CEO or board just to say "Thank you. Your gift is making a difference."

    Here are some tools I'm familiar with that will help give you the best of fundraising knowledge in the least time. These are tools I stake my Fundraising Coach reputation behind so I've either believe in so much I've either created them or am in a business relationship with them.

    • Movie Mondays
      Every Monday, you'll get a free 5-10 minute video from a nonprofit employee, board member, or foundation leader telling a story about what's working in their organization. Dedicating this 5-10 minutes a week will make you a leader that will take fundraising to the next level.

      You can sign up for free at www.MovieMondaysVideos.com

    • FundCoaches.com
      FundCoaches.com offers web-based video training from top experts. The toughest thing for those of us presenting was that the company founders wanted the segments to be 20- or 30- minutes! We're used to talking for 90-minutes in seminars or longer in all day retreats. The result is each video condenses the best of what we teach, making it something easy for you to squeeze into your schedule. (They're so good they've been approved for CFRE credit. If you don't know what that means, ask your fundraiser.)

      FundCoaches.com is still in start-up mode, but you can see a list courses already offered in the "store" at www.FundCoaches.com.

    • Ask Without Fear! DVD
      Another video alternative is the Ask Without Fear! DVD. I went into a studio to teach the concepts from my book Ask Without Fear!. Arranged in a Q&A format, this can be watched straight through in just over an hour or in specific segments. This is also perfect for training board members.

      For a complete description, go to: www.FundraisingCoachDVDs.com. (An entire board retreat-in-a-box is available at www.BoardRetreatPacks.com.)

    • Fundraising Kick
      Your responsibilities as a top leader are different than those of a full-time fundraiser, so I've created a weekly email just for you. Called Fundraising Kick this is designed to be a digital kick in the pants to make whatever time you have for fundraising more effective.

      You can see sample Kicks at: http://fundraisingcoach.com/fundraisingkick/

    There are great conferences and blogs and books available too. But these will let you learn without having to leave your desk. Committing to ongoing learning, just a few minutes a month, will go a long way toward helping your nonprofit reach sustainable funding.

Have the fundraising staff of your dreams

These are three simple actions you can take to ensure your fundraising staff is one that makes you proud: separate jobs appropriately, work on mutual accountability, and do some regular learning in the field of fundraising. These will help you retain great fundraisers and attract new ones when it's time to hire.

I'll be talking to fundraisers in the a later blog post. But for now, what would you add to the list? Or take away?

Tell us below in the comments!

About Marc Pitman

Marc A. Pitman is the author of Ask Without Fear!, director of The Nonprofit Academy, and founder of FundraisingCoach.com. A coach to leaders around the world, Marc's expertise and enthusiasm engages audiences and has caught the attention of media organizations as diverse as Al Jazeera and Fox News. Marc’s experience also includes pastoring a Vineyard church, managing a gubernatorial campaign, and teaching internet marketing and fundraising at colleges and universities. He is the husband to his best friend and the father of three amazing kids. And if you drive by him on the road, he’ll be singing 80’s tunes loud enough to embarrass his family!

Follow him on Google+, on Twitter @marcapitman, and like "Ask Without Fear!" on Facebook.

Comments

  1. Great tips, Marc! I think #1 is especially important – break down the tasks you want to accomplish into goals and deadlines and then see how many people it will reasonably take to accomplish those tasks. Instead, most non-profits hire one or two fundraising folks and figure they can do it all.

    Good post!

    Joe

  2. Love it Marc! OK, I’m biased having been that fundraiser/database administrator/woman who makes the tea – not to mention having been frustrated by the (usually Finance) Director’s obsession with ‘the bottom line’ within unrealistic timescales. But point 3 is absolutely essential – there should be a fundraising ethos throughout an entire organisation – even if everyone isn’t fundraising, they should know what the heck their fundraising aims are and why (and of course, everyone on the Board should be fundraising in one way or another whether it’s thanking donors, making intros or asking for money).

What would you add?