Will "shaking up the development office curb turnover?"

Will "shaking up the development office curb turnover?"

April 26, 2013 by jga_admin

by Kris Kindelsperger


A recent article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy titled “A Clarion Call to Shake Up Development Offices and Curb Turnover” caught my eye. It reports on a soon to be released book by Penelope Burk called Donor-Centered Leadership in which she espouses that turnover and dis-satisfaction among fundraising professionals could be altered if they are paid more, given unlimited vacations, rarely asked to put in overtime, can work from home when they want to, and provided other perks and flexibility. She asserts that charities actually lose money and have lower productivity when fundraisers are dissatisfied.

The majority of our experience would resonate with former Indiana University senior vice president for development, Kent Dove who is quoted in the same article and notes “some of her conclusion only fit certain types of groups.”

The real issue with many of our clients from small and medium size organizations is that they do not have enough development staff that are willing to put in the hours, embrace the mission, and really engage in the life of their organizations. Nearly everyone in the nonprofit sector can argue that they are underpaid and it is true that good people are always susceptible to being picked off by other organizations offering better positions and higher salaries. But intentional work, strategic work over time, and yes hard work are all inherent parts of the job, and to being successful.

By the very nature of what we do, we tend to meet our donors in the evenings and at weekend events. Many of our best donors don’t live near us and thus we need to travel to them. The most successful fundraisers often “bleed” the mission and values of their organization and can impart this passion to donors. All of this makes for long hours (seldom referred to as “overtime) and you don’t develop passion for your organization working on your laptop at home, but rather by being immersed in the day to day life of your organization.

Would advancement professionals like to be paid more, work less hours, and not always be immersed in all that goes on at our organizations? Yes, but that’s a part of what it means to dedicate your life’s work to the noble and rewarding work that is the nonprofit world.