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...
Fundraising Facts Over Fundraising Feelings

Fundraising Facts Over Fundraising Feelings

We have entered an interesting season in America. Seems like “facts” are being treated like just another opinion. And the consequence is that if facts and opinions are equals, then making your direct response fundraising decisions based on feelings is an equally valid approach. And that would be a mistake. A HUGE mistake. I was reminded of how feelings can misguide us. We completed one of our Offer Forecasting studies last month. Offer Forecasting leverages online surveys to predict whether donors will open a direct mail piece. It also measure donors’ likelihood to give to a certain offer. Before our latest Offer Forecasting study went into the field, everyone at Analytical Ones made friendly wagers on which of the nine offers we were testing would be rated the highest by the donors. Knowing the client and their donors as well as I do (I mean I’ve worked with the client for years, plus I have 20-more years of direct response experience) I was pretty confident that the offer I chose would win. And my pick came in dead last. In. Dead. Last. My business partner has a great saying when fundraising “experts” try to predict how donors will respond. She will say emphatically: “Repeat after me. YOU are not the target audience!” This why we at Analytical Ones always base our recommendations solidly on the facts. And though it may be trendy at the moment to go with your feelings, we implore you to use fundraising facts over fundraising feelings in...
Our Top 5 Most Popular Blogs of 2016

Our Top 5 Most Popular Blogs of 2016

As we close out 2016, we wanted to take a moment to thank you for reading, sharing and commenting on our blog posts. We hope you were able to use a few of our analytical insights to win, lift and keep your donors and supporters. We also thought you might enjoy looking back at the most popular blogs of 2016. Our top posts focused on how the election affected – or didn’t affect – holiday giving, the value and scarcity of dual channel donors, major donor modeling, how direct response ROI is connected to net revenue and one reason direct mail continues to work. In case you missed any of these posts, here are the links to our top 5 blogs of 2016: 1. How the Election Results Will Affect Holiday Giving 2. Dual Channel/Schmual Channel 3. The Power of a Major Donor Model 4. The Correlation Between Direct Response ROI and Net Revenue 5. To Have and to Hold Thank you and Happy New...
The Frustration of Volunteering

The Frustration of Volunteering

This past year, my family and I have been volunteering for Lutheran Social Services to help refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan relocate to Savannah. I admire the work that Lutheran Social Services does with refugees. It’s a huge job and they do so much with so little. And because of a lack of resources, they rely heavily on volunteers. One of our jobs has been to help coordinate volunteers. And I learned something this past year. Volunteers, well, they just aren’t reliable. It’s not that they are flakey, it’s just that volunteers, even retired ones, have very busy lives. I would say the amount of time we have spent just trying to coordinate volunteers to help is many more hours than we have spent directly assisting refugees. I confess, I don’t get my “volunteer kicks” by doing administrative and menial tasks. You might be the same. And while as a business owner, I know the critical role of administrative tasks, I don’t enjoy being on the phone begging people who have “signed up” to show up. As fundraising consultants, one of our common recommendations is that the nonprofit “engage their donors with volunteering opportunities.” I now understand why the typical response from the client when they hear me say this is a sigh and roll of the eyes. It does seem the amount of staff time, effort and resources to recruit, train, coordinate and manage volunteers just isn’t worth the result. And that’s a shame. One solution is Psychic Pay. My business partner Joe Churpek blogged about this a couple of years ago, you can read about it...