Build Recruitment into Every Day

Hiring continues to be top of mind for leaders across advancement shops, as there has been no decrease in folks leaving our industry, moving to a new opportunity, or retiring altogether. This is nothing new: Recruitment and retention have been buzzwords for years now. And yet, too many shops aren’t taking action to build a culture that actively supports successful recruitment.

This is where many of us turn to search firms when we have a position open. Search firms can be great partners; but, not miracle workers. They need us to do our part too. Yet, I find so many of us aren’t sharing our recruitment goals with our teams, and even fewer are blocking time on calendars to make connections, mine LinkedIn, host informational interviews, or create a proactive plan for growing candidate pools.

Imagine what just 5-10 minutes a day dedicated to spreading a positive word about your team and your institution would do to support your efforts next time you hire someone. Don’t know how to begin? Start here:

  • Think about the most ambitious, positive language you can use to share about your team, your institution and your cause. Now, where do you share it, both internally and externally? Remember that retention is more effective than recruitment, so make sure you use your language with colleagues too.
  • When you and members of your team attend conferences, webinars or other professional development or networking events, how do you talk about your institution and open/upcoming positions? What tools are you providing to support these important discussions?
  • How are you networking with institutional partners (admissions, career services, annual fund, patient services, etc.) to find new talent that can be a transferable skills hire? Are you sharing your openings across your alumni network, volunteer/auxiliary groups, and program staff?
  • Every member of your team can contribute! How do they speak and post online about your institution? Are they networking? What tools can you give them to support your growth efforts? (My favorite is a card that shares your team values, with a QR code linking to open positions.)

We are in a fight for talent. But we are also an industry of incredible purpose and mission. Many of us even came to this field by accident. And now our role is to educate others about how our own teams can offer careers that provide fulfillment, joy, and impact on issues we care about deeply.

We can do this in just 5–10 minutes a day — a small investment that could yield you and your team some incredible new teammates.

Make Your Training Investment Matter

On a webinar I hosted recently, we had an institution sign up a large group of attendees. Including multiple team members is common, but this time something stood out to me: they had invited their student assistants.

I loved this immediately! Talk about a thoughtful (and easy) way to nurture talent, interest, and a culture of philanthropy in an up-and-coming group of professionals. It also made me think about trainings. Specifically, who we as leaders offer them to, who we exclude, and how we make them stick.

One thing COVID brought us is an increase in virtual trainings. Conferences, webinars, and other trainings have become more accessible than ever. This accessibility offers leaders an incredible opportunity to open up our thinking about who we’re inviting to participate in these professional development opportunities.

By being more expansive in our invitations, we’re more inclusive of a diverse group of employees — supporting professional development and career growth, while also introducing our important work to a wider potential talent base.

By inviting administrative team members and student assistants, we demonstrate our commitment to their growth and we expand their understanding of the field — building their own buy-in, skill sets and enthusiasm for our wider charge.

And, by inviting colleagues outside the target audience — for example, inviting donor relations or strategic talent management professionals to a webinar for gift officers, or inviting faculty or programmatic partners to a conference session for donor relations professionals — we provide additional understanding and clarity that can lead to better working partnerships.

We should also be thinking more broadly about how we follow up on those learnings. For example, bringing a wider audience together to brainstorm key take-aways and how to implement learnings. The broader the representation in those conversations, the deeper the buy-in … and the more effective our efforts overall.

The tools to build culture, knowledge, and growth opportunities are, quite literally, right at our fingertips. Let’s use them today for as many team members as possible!

Looking for practical, strategic professional development opportunities for your team? Check out KDD Philanthropy webinars, which offer a one-price structure that allows as many colleagues from one institution to attend.

5 Ways to Maximize Professional Development and Energize Your Team

Hiring and retaining talented staff has long been a challenge in our industry. However, with workforce trends that some are calling “The Great Resignation” currently underway, the need for advancement leaders to create an environment that attracts, nurtures, and retains talent has become urgent.

Luckily, there is clear data showing what advancement professionals are seeking in their careers, and professional development is high on that list. And investing here not only improves employee satisfaction, it also improves your results by elevating team skills, contributing toward a culture of excellence and creating a talent pipeline for your institution.

With intentionality and thoughtfulness, you can create professional development opportunities that enrich individuals and contribute building your larger team. Some of my favorite ways to do this are:

1. After a webinar, have team members debrief together and discuss next steps. Meet again in a few weeks to discuss what’s been implemented, what’s working, and what’s not.

2. Staff members who attend a conference should present key learnings to the team, and then ask the team to brainstorm how those learnings can apply to your team.

3. Invite employees interested in growth to identify roles they’d like to learn more about and have them job shadow. Afterward, ask what appealed to them and what didn’t; and discuss the skills they should develop to obtain a similar role.

4. For those who want to become managers, or strengthen their management skills, ask them to identify a monthly management topic for you two to talk through, identifying strategies and styles.

5. Most importantly: invest in your own knowledge about how to develop team members. Join me for a complimentary webinar on January 5 to explore how you can use webinars, conferences, coaching, and trainings for your staff to grow results, build performance, and increase retention. I’ve seen what works (and what doesn’t) and will provide practical and easy-to-implement advice to ensure that you and your team are getting the most out of your professional development investments.

How are you creating development opportunities, whether for your team or yourself? Share in the comments so we can learn together. And don’t forget to join me on January 5!

Fundraisers are Colleagues, Not Competitors

Last month, I wrote about the recent report on the challenges fundraisers face, and their widespread desire to leave their jobs and potentially the industry. A dynamic that wasn’t documented in the report, but that I hear about from clients frequently, is competition. As fundraisers strive daily to meet ambitious goals, the sense of competition builds.

Some leaders think this is fine, maybe even positive. That competition builds motivation and increases excellence. But those leaders are wrong: the short-term gains brought about by competitiveness quickly pale in comparison to its other side effects – resource-hoarding, short-sighted donor strategies, and a disruptive culture.

Lifelong donor relationships built on incredible generosity require a cooperative, collaborative culture. The easiest building block for this culture is a defined, widely shared gift credit policy that incentivizes all the right behaviors. How would a policy that includes the items below support your team’s best performance?

Collaborative Strategies for Shared Credit

The best gift credit policies expressly address the many scenarios that may arise in an advancement shop. This policy would specify providing 100% of gift value to every team/individual in the scenarios outlined below.

  • Major and annual giving: Gifts that arrive via an annual giving medium (direct mail envelope, online, event donation, etc.) from a donor who is being actively cultivated by a frontline fundraiser – especially if there is something unique about that gift (i.e. it is larger than the usual giving pattern, it is the first time the donor has given through this medium, etc.).
  • Major and planned giving: Planned gifts that are secured after a frontline fundraiser brings a planned giving officer into a donor relationship to discuss giving vehicles.
  • Foundation and corporate and/or major giving: Donations received through a formal grant application process, wherein a frontline fundraiser built a relationship that opened the door to application process, and a foundation giving team member wrote the grant application.
  • Multiple major giving team members: Donations that are made after two or more frontline fundraisers provide significant support to a donor strategy.

Exceptions to Shared Credit

There are scenarios when shared credit is not warranted, including:

  • Employees crediting their manager: The role of a supervisor is specifically to provide guidance, insight, and resources for their team members to be successful. Supervisors are acknowledged for enabling success across their team in other ways, including the seniority, title, and compensation of their position.
  • Information sharing: Fundraisers often consult their colleagues for feedback and information as they develop and implement donor strategies. Openly sharing ideas, contacts, information, and more (e.g. editing a written proposal, introducing a campus leader to another fundraiser so they can participate in a strategy, etc.) is expected as a part of basic collegiality.
  • Passive interactions: Fundraisers can maintain a relationship with a prospect and not contribute substantively in a strategy to secure a gift. If a fundraiser sends a birthday card, chats with the donor at an event, provided some limited insight to the strategy but did not directly participate in that strategy in an ongoing/essential way (“Oh, I heard them say they’d like to see their name on something.”), then credit should not be shared.

It is absolutely true that gift credit is an important indicator of a fundraiser’s success. A clear and inclusive policy for assigning credit incentivizes the collaboration and donor-focused strategies that ultimately inspire the greatest generosity for your institution. Does your team know that they will be rewarded for acting in service to the greatest possible generosity?

At KDD Philanthropy, we believe that all stakeholders can make shifts in the workplace environment, and we offer team trainings and individual coaching to support shifts in culture, accountability and opportunity.

How to Say Goodbye

The world of advancement is a small one, and its talent market is tight. Yet working in this field is an honor – we inspire people’s most generous instincts and make incredible good possible.

In this context, it’s clear we owe our employees meaningful and positive journeys in this field – even when they may be leaving us. When I came across this blog by Richard Riche about off-boarding employees, its implications for our profession were clear.

Richard points out that by focusing on a positive transition for employees who leave our teams, we create brand ambassadors, encourage job applicant referrals, and may even see the best of these employees return.

If we managed our employee transitions with these possibilities in mind, and an understanding of the institutional knowledge they hold, how would we approach them differently? We could change these experiences for the better if we:

  • Acknowledge that we cannot always provide the best fit or next opportunity at our own institution, and transition in these cases is natural.
  • Invite our team members to be an active partner in creating their transition plan and even weighing in on job posting language.
  • Discuss knowledge transfer, and how we might share their greatest accomplishments, programs, processes and relationships with new staff
  • Ask them to walk us through key donor strategies – the nuances, processes and recommended next steps. (This applies to more positions than just the frontline team … prospect research, stewardship, communications, admins, etc.) Then apply this process to important internal relationships (deans, physicians, etc.).
  • Seek honest insight – what worked and what didn’t for this position? Lead an exit interview dialogue that reflects a true desire to learn.
  • Recognize their impact, acknowledging specific accomplishments and outcomes your departing team member was a part of.
  • Stay fully engaged with our team member through their last day, and offering to stay in touch post-transition.

With a thoughtful approach to off-boarding team members, our former employees can become advocates for us in the competition for advancement talent … and in the larger community as well.

I’d love to hear what techniques you use to make this happen – please share in the comments!

Meeting the Need for More Advancement Professionals

If there’s one narrative that’s held true in the world of fundraising for years, it’s the difficulty in hiring and retaining talented advancement staff. Studies show major gift officer tenure is anywhere from 1.5 to 3.5 years, and similar retention issues for other positions, driven by a demand for talent and a shallow talent pool.

We all struggle with the impact of this reality. But how many of us are proactively working to address this problem at its source, inviting others to consider building a career in our field?

Agreeing to informational interviews for those who are interested is an activity we all can – and should – commit to, even when we feel too busy to squeeze one more appointment in our calendars. Consider what you could accomplish in just one conversation:

  • Kindling a passion for advancement work in new graduates and experienced professionals with transferable skills.
  • Educating about the nuances of our field: what it takes to be high performing, the struggle against job-hopping, and more.
  • Building a wider understanding of the value and professionalism of our work, a shift underway nationally but still too-slow moving.

When you say “yes” to an informational interview, keep in mind a few tips:

  • Come prepared with actionable advice for moving forward in the advancement field – from attending professional development events to relevant volunteer opportunities to offering additional contacts.
  • Be honest about the good, the bad, and the ugly, allowing for informed decision-making and better self-selection for fit.
  • Above all else, remember what brought you to this profession. Was it a passion for a cause? The idea of helping others do good? Partnering with visionary faculty, physicians, or programmatic staff? Share that inspiration and seek to spark it in others.

When was the last time you agreed to coffee with someone who wanted to learn more about your work?

Today I challenge each of us: schedule one of these meetings in the coming weeks. Say “yes” to someone in your network, tell your alumni group you’re available for fellow alums, or tell your on-campus career counseling center you’d be happy to be a resource. Whatever tool is at your disposal, be a part of recruiting others to help us build a more philanthropic world.

For tools that decrease turnover of your staff once they’re hired, see these 5 Strategies for Retaining High Performing Staff.

6 Tips to Rekindle Your Professional Fire

When I decided to make the switch from a career in hospitality and event management to philanthropy many years ago, I was driven by a desire to have a voice in the issues that mattered to me, and to support programs/initiatives that I truly believed in. I was eager to work with other idealists – with colleagues, volunteers, and donors that shared a desire to make a difference and to act on them.

Those of us who have built a career in advancement tend to be optimists at heart, inspired by the opportunity to impact the issues we deeply care about. And likely many of us have experienced periods where that optimism, and the incredibly positive power of our profession, feels far away. We’ve felt very removed after days spent navigating bureaucracy, sitting in meetings that seem far away from intent, and focusing on internal “politics.”

Summer – with its longer days, vacations, nature, and barbecues – brings us the perfect opportunity to reflect and rekindle that passion for the incredibly meaningful work we do. Here are my favorite ways to recharge:

1. Take your vacation time. Get away from work and the day-to-day, and experience something new. Spend some of that time in nature, as there is plenty of research demonstrating the restorative power of being outdoors. It’s hard to find joy in your work when you’re overwhelmed by it, so use your vacation to find distance and reflect.

2. Go look at the impact you’re having – literally! Move away from your computer and go watch students interacting in the commons; see animals getting ready for their new homes; families receiving the assistance they need to stay whole. Say to yourself, “I helped make this happen. Colleagues and donors contribute to something meaningful. We are conduits for change.”

3. Talk to a donor who is passionate about your organization’s work. This doesn’t have to be a major donor, but someone who cares deeply about your cause. See their passion and hope, and let that remind you why you’ve built the career you have, and what an honor it is to work with these individuals.

4. Think about your successes. Have you helped a donor make an exceptionally generous gift? Coached a colleague through a difficult situation? Created a stewardship experience that touched your supporters? It’s so easy to forget what you’ve done that matters – remind yourself instead of all you are bringing to those around you. If it’s not easy to remember, start a file of “jobs well done” to reflect on whenever you need a pick-me-up!

5. Remember that we advancement professionals are not the only ones who feel this way! I wrote this post after being inspired by this Forbes article, about these same issues from the perspective of a funder. Every professional faces challenges in the workplace, but not every professional gets to work toward a better world.

6. If you still can’t find joy in your work, it’s time to ask yourself tough questions. Are you still in the right field? In the right role? At the right organization?

Our profession allows us to take our strengths and use them for issues we care deeply about; to spend time with others who share our passion and who are deeply generous; to see our impact every day, if only we stop and look. I invite you to spend this summer “looking,” and rekindling the passion that brought you to this profession in the first place.

KDD Philanthropy can help your organization strengthen its culture, build tools and provide coaching to yield successful results. Contact us today about how we can help your team achieve even greater success.

photo credit: Pexels

How to Stop Fundraising Staff Turnover and Help Employees Stay

Two statements that I hear constantly, in fundraising shops of all types and sizes, are:

“In order for me to grow in development, I need to find a position at a new organization.”

And, “One of the biggest – if not the biggest – challenges I face as a development manager is the constant staff turnover.”

Employees eager to grow feel they must leave. Managers are searching for a way to get their staff to stay. And yet…with the average development officer tenure remaining stubbornly under two years, it’s clear these two completely in-sync needs have yet to find a way forward together.

The truth is, sometimes employees do need to leave – but not nearly as often as they currently are. And when employees stay, everyone benefits: development officers gain important foundational skills, are able to demonstrate steadiness, cultivate relationships that lead to larger gifts, and experience the quality of life that stability provides for many. Organizations see more successful donor relationships, are not so often distracted by onboarding and starting anew, and are more effective in building a productive culture.

So how do we help employees stay? First, we must create cultures that foster transparent dialogue about professional growth. Staff members need to feel that discussing career options is safe, and managers must commit to entering these conversations with care and honesty.

Second, it is up to managers to lead the way by:

  • Openly discussing timelines and expectations for promotion and raises early and often;
  • Identifying non-promotional opportunities to expand an employee’s skill set and experiences;
  • Celebrating and rewarding employee successes outside of offering promotions;
  • Offering thoughtful and honest feedback on an employee’s progress toward his or her goals;
  • Recognize a shifting culture toward increased work-life balance; and,
  • Advocating for appropriate raises and promotions with the organization’s senior leadership by discussing the return on value in retaining a high-performing, stable employee.

However, this is not a one-way conversation. Employees who participate as well, by undertaking the following, will likely find a much more fulfilling path ahead:

  • Demonstrating a sustained expertise for their current positions before seeking growth;
  • Recognizing feedback is a critical part of the growth process;
  • Keeping an eye open for opportunities to learn new skills, and asking their managers to participate in these; and,
  • Spending time seeking insight on how their strengths match career opportunities and organizational needs.

We as managers can cut down on turnover with this kind of culture – I’ve seen it, and I’ve done it. That doesn’t mean every employee will stay. However, when staff members do leave in an environment like this, it’s more likely to be because the organization truly isn’t able to provide the next step for an employee. And the employee is more likely to leave on good terms, allowing for a more productive transition. Whether it’s the organization maintaining morale or a positive relationship in case the employee ever wishes to return, or it’s the employee preserving a professional reputation, this type of departure benefits all parties.

Are you a manager looking to grow your tools to retain employees? Learn more about Strategic Talent Management on the KDD Philanthropy webpage, or send me a message to discuss how I can help.

3 Ways to Provide Growth Pathways for Retaining High-Performing Fundraisers

Throughout my career as a fundraiser and manager, I have interviewed countless candidates who told me the reason they are leaving their current position is a lack of opportunity for growth. Whether the individual works for a non-profit, healthcare institution, or university, I’ve heard that statement time and again.

Don’t let this happen to you and your organization! As you recruit and retain high-performing fundraisers, take steps to advocate and create pathways for these valuable team members. They want to know they make a difference and have a future with your organization. You can use these three strategies to provide growth opportunities for the employees you want to stay with your organization.

  1. Identify whether your high-performing development officers are ready to take on more of a leadership role. Opportunities to lead can come in several forms, not simply giving someone the title of “director.” For example, assign a team member to lead a taskforce or work group. Or, perhaps you can charge the individual with best practice development, such as standards for fundraising travel. Looking externally, are there community groups or committees the individual can join to represent your organization?
  2. Use the power of mentorship as a growth pathway. If your employee aims to eventually supervise staff and become a manager – but they need to expand their approach or style first – ask them to serve as a mentor to a colleague or new hire. Or, perhaps you can put them in charge of developing the on-boarding process for your department. If management is not a goal, identify a mentor for the development officer who is a leader in ways outside of management. For example, provide an opportunity for them to your high performer can shadow you or another leader on an important project to see how you staff a board, build a fundraising initiative, or partner with programmatic staff.
  3. Carve out ten percent of your high performer’s job description for special projects. This is a great way to invest in your super stars while benefiting the larger team. And, your employee will know that you are willing to make a true investment in her when you specifically make time for it. For example, find projects that grow skills in management, volunteer leadership, mentoring, or complex gift strategies.

Your most valuable employees are in high demand in the development community, and regularly see outside opportunities that will allow them to grow. This environment demands that managers be proactive, creative and dedicated to these employees in order to retain them and best serve their organizations. Creating growth pathways is one of the single-most effective ways to ensure your top players will want to stay and continue performing at their best.

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5 Strategies for Retaining High-Performing Fundraising Staff

It seems like every few months, a new survey reveals that the top concerns of nonprofit chief executives is the loss of high-performing development staff. It’s a sad state of the industry when the majority of development officers plan to leave their position within 12 months of being hired. And there’s plenty to suggest that more fundraisers are leaving the industry than joining.

Yet even with this information presented to us, our industry continues to focus on recruiting rather than retaining the very staff we say we want to keep – the staff that know our organizations, our donors and leaders. If building a high-performing team is a priority for you and your organization, you must shift your culture so your team members actually want to stay.

But how does an organization do that? These five strategies will change the way you retain skilled staff in a culture that demands high-performing fundraisers.

  1. Add “WOW” into onboarding. Most new staff will decide within 90 days if they made the right decision in joining your organization, so make those 90 days count! Onboarding new staff is much more than providing a parking space and keys on a first day. Meaningful onboarding means creating “WOW” (Welcome, Ongoing, Warmth) tools that make new employees feel they are set up for success. If you are not formally ensuring introductions to key colleagues, access to mentors, and clear best practice tools, your new employees will quickly wonder whether they made the right choice.
  2. Agree on clear plans and expectations. Staff do best when you are in agreement about what is expected of them. When welcoming a new staff member, create a 90-day plan to define where they should spend their time, and what deliverables are expected. Add an annual plan to ensure that you both have a clear, shared vision. This also ensures an objective way to check progress, reinforce expectations, and build accountability and growth into their performance. Asking your employee to develop an annual plan is an excellent way to facilitate growth and buy-in.
  3. Don’t just review – discuss! Performance reviews should not be a one-way conversation. They are most productive when they are a mutual reflection on the past and they set a roadmap for the future. Asking employees for their opinions, along with accomplishments, hurdles and opportunities for improvement, makes them feel invested in the process and to give you invaluable insight as a manager. Make sure to pose specific questions to them in advance of the review so they have time to reflect and come prepared for the conversation.
  4. Put away your cookie cutters. Every staff member is different, which means you need to adapt your management. Actively assess the management tools you use, and whether they are equally effective for each employee. Where you lack efficacy, think about how you can change your approach. In managing employee differences, identify the individuals’ unique strengths and techniques to help them maximize those strengths. Remember that the crucial act of celebrating those individual strengths requires understanding differences too!
  5. Create and customize professional development. High performers want to continually up their game. Obvious opportunities exist in conferences, webinars and online learning. But think the less apparent approaches: site visits, small group cohort conversations, time with peers, and fundraising coaching. Employee milestones – meeting goals, tenure in position – are perfect for providing special opportunities to grow their talent.

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