The Pandemic of Development Turnover

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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 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 below.

1 Comment

  1. avatar

    Thank you for your post and your questions Bill. I appreciate your willingness to ask this hard question. I have served as CEO and main fundraiser for a nonprofit for the last 5 years and have also had consulting roles with nonprofits about fundraising strategy. So I have thought about this question quite a bit.

    What I see as the core issue is that the development job is fundamentally a CEO responsibility for which they are accountable to the board. If the CEO hires a development person or team, they are essentially saying, “I need help in this area.” It may be because they are too busy or because they don’t feel they have the right skill set to do it well. However, it is still the CEO’s responsibility.

    This means that the board and the CEO have stated and unstated expectations about fundraising. Most of the time these expectations are not well understood or well communicated to development staff. This means that there is not a clarity and common understanding of what needs to be done. Most development people who don’t last get caught in a game of misunderstood or changing expectations. If consultants could help CEO’s and boards to articulate realistic and clear expectations for new development staff, I think we would start to see more sustainable tenure.


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