High turnover among fund raisers has slowed in the financial downturn, but will undoubtedly resume when the economy improves, Penelope Burk, a fund-raising consultant, told the annual meeting of the Association of Fundraising Professionals here
Ms. Burk, head of Cygnus Applied Research, in Chicago said a growing number of charities will soon be competing for a scarce number of qualified fund raisers. But she said, charities can avoid some of the problem if they take steps to reduce fund-raiser turnover at their organizations.
Ms. Burk based her remarks on preliminary findings from her forthcoming research with more 8,000 nonprofit officials and board members-including 1,200 fund raisers-to measure tenure in different types of fund-raising positions; whether and how turnover in the development office affects an organization’s bottom line; and whether charities can reduce turnover among fund raisers.
It cost charities 65 to 83 percent of a fund raiser’s annual salary to replace that person, Ms. Burk said.
Given that cost, she said, nonprofit organizations could make the argument to provide a top-performing fund raiser with a 15-percent annual increase-or they could increase pay by a gradually higher amount every year a fund raiser stayed on the job.
Pointing to her research, Ms. Burk said that 37 percent of fund raisers said they left their last job for a higher salary and 48 percent said they would leave their current job for higher pay. The fund raisers she surveyed, said Ms. Burk, do not appear unhappy with how much they are currently paid; they leave simply because they can get more money elsewhere.
Among the other suggestions that stem from her research:
Find ways to give fund raisers more management responsibilities. Twenty-nine percent of fund raisers said they left their last job because they were offered a more senior position, while more than a third of fund raisers said they would leave their current job for that reason.
With a shortage of senior and management positions for development officers, Ms. Burk said, more charities should reconfigure jobs so that fund raisers, particularly those in nonmanagement roles, are in “stepped positions,” with progressively more responsibility for each year the fund raiser stays on the job.
Create succession plans. Only 22 percent of senior fund raisers who manage their organization’s development efforts said they were grooming a replacement, and another 57 percent said that there was no one on their staffs who they felt was qualified to assume their roles, she said. Yet that may not necessarily be the case: More than two-thirds of the development officers in the survey said that they felt qualified to step into their boss’s job.
Offer workers more flexibility and other low-cost benefits. Even if they cannot offer higher pay or more responsibility, charities would do well to offer fund raisers other benefits, Ms. Burk said. The non-monetary benefits rated most desirable among fund raisers are working from home (52 percent), flexible hours (51 percent), more vacation time (42 percent), and an employer provided cell phone (32 percent).
In fact, flexible hours, job sharing, and other such arrangements are among the top reasons cited by fund raisers who said they planned to stay in their current job indefinitely, Ms. Burk said. Others were that the fund raiser believes in the organization’s mission, he or she is respected as an active participant in the decision making of the organization, and feels part of an excellent team.
Fund raisers are also looking for certain qualities in the people who manage them, said Ms. Burk. Asked to describe the characteristics of the best boss they had worked with in the course of their career, fund raisers said that person allowed them to work independently (55 percent), asked for and valued their input (53 percent), encouraged them to ask questions (49 percent), and gave them credit for their ideas (48 percent).