3 Steps to Improve Development Staff Retention

3 Steps to Improve Development Staff Retention

Our last blog (here) generated quite a few comments – though because of the sensitivity of the topic, most comments came directly to me rather than being posted publicly on our blog’s website. Thanks to all for sharing their thoughts. I’ve boiled down the comments into three steps that any nonprofit organization can take to drastically improve the retention of their development staff: 1. Always include your development staff in discussions when setting revenue goals. There are two clear reasons for this. First, if the organization wants the development staff to own the goals, they need to be part of the process. Revenue goals mandated from above will never be owned. Second, the development staff has the best handle on donor performance trends, and they know what the file can actually generate. Donor files are like actuarial life expectancy data that life insurance companies use to set premiums. Creating goals without using this knowledge is setting the organization up for failure. 2. Any revenue goal increase must be accompanied by a corresponding increase in the development department’s budget. “Ex nihilo nihil fit” (from nothing nothing comes) is a philosophical thesis first argued by Parmenides. Translated into our context: “You won’t raise more money if you don’t spend more money.” It never ceases to amaze me how many nonprofit organizations increase revenue goals without increasing development budgets. Nonprofit organizations, this is totally demoralizing to development staff. Stop it. 3. If your nonprofit organization is going to hold the development staff accountable to achieving the revenue goal, then the development staff must have total autonomy over how they spend their development...
The Pandemic of Development Turnover

The Pandemic of Development Turnover

You may have noticed a lot of Linked-In promotions for a new book by Jason Lewis titled The War for Fundraising Talent (you can read the Amazon reviews here https://www.amazon.com/War-Fundraising-Talent-Small-Shops/dp/1619848694). It’s great to see the author address the biggest problem in the nonprofit sector: Development staff turnover! Any of us on the consulting side of the nonprofit vertical have seen the struggle for nonprofit organizations to find and retain talented development staff. Two years is about the average tenure of a development professional. During the person’s first year, they are learning the job (and the insurmountable problems they are asked to solve without any resources) and then the second year they spend looking for a new job. Sadly, the consultants and agencies often end up being the “keeper” of institutional knowledge. And that’s just not right. Along with cutting new donor acquisition budgets, development turnover is the biggest problem in the nonprofit sector. Both of these problems suffer from the same root challenge: Shortsightedness. I’ve never worked on the nonprofit side, but I’d love to hear from those who have and what their ideas are for solving this pandemic. Share your thoughts...
Four Keys to Nonprofit Success

Four Keys to Nonprofit Success

I’ve recently read Cecile Richard’s new book, Make Trouble. She offers some simple but great advice for anyone working to start any organization, but I think it’s particularly appropriate for nonprofit organizations. Ms. Richard’s points are: 1. Set concrete goals that can be achieved Too often in nonprofit circles, missions and goals are filled with goals of “transforming lives” or “giving hope.” While these aspirational goals are inspiring, they aren’t concrete. Concrete goals are SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-sensitive). 2. Be willing to ask for money You’d think this would be a no-brainer in the nonprofit world, but it is amazing how often we hear about Executive Directors or Board members who are scared to ask for money. I love Richard’s approach to fundraising, that will alleviate some of those fears: “If you ask for money, you will get advice. If you ask for advice you will get money.” This is so simple, but it is critical. Engaging people beyond their pocketbook is the key to getting into their pocketbook. 3. Take big risks Anyone who has started an organization knows, rightly or wrongly, they ultimately own all of the successes, and of all the failures. So you may as well think big. 4. Master organizational rules Make sure everyone has a voice in every meeting, and make sure they have a specific action item when they leave. And the “small” stuff isn’t small at all (name tags, food, start on-time, end on-time) and most importantly – have fun.   Richards’ main advice is to get involved in this issues that you care about. And if...
Predictions are a Tricky Business

Predictions are a Tricky Business

For all of us who are “March Madness” fans, this is a great article: https://www.ncaa.com/news/basketball-men/bracketiq/2018-04-03/ncaa-bracket-was-better-all-rest-2018 Given all the upsets in the first round of the tournament this year, some lucky ESPN entrant, “Che 3”, accurately guessed 80% of the games, including the finals matchup and the eventual winner, Villanova. That’s impressive. Until you realize that there were 17.3 million entrees into the ESPN contest. And the best one was only 80% right. Predicting the future is a tricky business. Joshua Ramos wrote a fascinating novel on the topic called “The Age of the Unthinkable.” Basically, it’s a bunch of case studies on how bad we humans are at predicting the future. Even the really smart humans. https://www.amazon.com/Unthinkable-First-Joshua-Cooper-Ramo/dp/1408700581/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1522851729&sr=1-2&keywords=the+age+of+the+unthinkable&dpID=415KoqBr8kL&preST=_SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch Part of what we do at Analytical Ones is to forecast future revenue for nonprofit organizations. And we think we have a pretty good model. But it’s not a perfect model. There are no perfect models, as there are always variables that affect results that are impossible to predict. But we get way closer than 80% with a lot fewer than 17.3 million...
Bearing Down

Bearing Down

Many people that work in the numbers business, including us, have been saying for a while now that the stock market is overcooked, and a big correction is inevitable – so the major dive in the Dow Jones yesterday was not a huge surprise. No matter where we end up in the next few days, many finance gurus are still predicting a drop of 30% or more. This article by David Rosenberg, the chief economist at Gluskin Sheff, was reposted by Business Insider on January 11, 2018, explains the trends in an easy to absorb manner: http://www.businessinsider.com/markets-look-stretched-rosenberg-says-2018-1 Of course, Mr. Rosenberg is counseling private investors. At Analytical Ones, we are consulting with nonprofit organizations. And all of us that worked in fundraising through the market collapse of 2008 know that philanthropy is closely tied to market performance. So, what did we learn a decade ago that will help us prepare this time around? This is what you can expect it see: The recession of 2008 had a catastrophic effect on new donor acquisition. It has only been in the last couple of years that organizations have recovered in this area. In times of economic uncertainty, donors are unlikely to add organizations to support. Large donors dried up. Again, in times of economic uncertainty, its tougher for donors to write those big checks. Loyal donors continued to give – and they gave generously. Knowing these things, here’s what we recommend you should be doing now: Even with the drop yesterday, the market is still strong. Now is the time to be investing as much as you can in new donor...