Why are Good Nonprofit Fundraisers Hard to Keep? RESPECT

Satisfaction Cant get no Why are Good Nonprofit Fundraisers Hard to Keep? RESPECT
I can’t get no…

Fundraisers report that money is the number one reason they leave their jobs [See Part I of this two-part series here]. While I do believe too many fundraisers are underpaid relative to their skill sets and performance, I’ve a hunch it’s not the real chief culprit for fundraiser dissatisfaction. What is?

Guess what? The reason is very similar to why donors leave you. If you read through this article, you’ll learn both (1) how to keep more fundraisers, and (2) how to satisfy, inspire and retain more donors.


I gave you a hint in the title. Yup. It’s what Aretha Franklin famously sang about:


It’s not just respect for fundraisers as individuals that’s lacking. It’s respect for their profession. For what it takes to succeed with development in a nonprofit organization. For what it means to be a part of a team — all working together towards the same goal — and why it’s impossible to succeed without a supportive infrastructure and culture.

And by the way, donors won’t thrive absent a supportive culture and infrastructure either. They’re looking to be a part of your community, your family, your way of life. If you won’t give them this warm, fuzzy, connected feeling — they’ll find someone else who will.

So what pre-conditions must be in place for fundraising staff, and donors, to want to stay?

Continue Reading

Why are Good Nonprofit Fundraisers Hard to Keep? MONEY

Money Why are Good Nonprofit Fundraisers Hard to Keep? MONEY
Money is only part of the story of why fundraisers leave

If you’re a fundraiser, does this sound like you?

Show me my money!!!

According to five years of research by Penelope Burk (culminating in her book, Donor-Centered Leadership) as well as a much-talked-about study by CompassPoint and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, half of chief development officers plan to leave their jobs in two years or less and 40% plan to leave fundraising entirely.  The number one reason fundraisers give for leaving is to earn more money.

What’s going on, and how can you fix it? Is it about money, or something else?Continue Reading

Partner to Solve Social Problems; Stop Acting in Silos

silo vertical 199x300 Partner to Solve Social Problems; Stop Acting in Silos
Does this look like a 21st century nonprofit to you?

Ask someone on the street if there are too many nonprofits addressing the same causes. Most likely, you’ll get a resounding “yes.”

When there’s a crisis, folks are confused as to which relief agency they should give their money. When a friend is diagnosed with cancer, they aren’t sure which organization will make the best use of their donation.

This confusion leads to “drop in the bucket” donations. Folks want to at least doing something, but don’t want to risk throwing their hard-earned money into a black hole.

This behavior stifles the entire nonprofit sector. Folks don’t trust their philanthropy will be effectively stewarded, so don’t give as much as they could. Even worse, folks with track records of investing — philanthropic (aka “social”) entrepreneurs — sit on the sidelines waiting. Waiting for the social benefit sector to do something that, up until now, it has not done well. What?Continue Reading

Whither the Nonprofit Sector in 2015? 6 Ways to Assure Yours Doesn’t Wither

vines growing 300x199 Whither the Nonprofit Sector in 2015? 6 Ways to Assure Yours Doesn’t Wither

Think big to grow and bear fruit; Think small and wither.

I chose the word “w(h)ither” in my title very deliberately. It can mean “Where are you going?” It can also mean “Dying on the vine.” Which does it mean for you and your nonprofit?

If the former, where are you going? You’ll find some “To Do’s” in this article to help you on your way towards a sustainable future. If the latter, how can your prevent this from happening? You’ll find some “don’ts” to help you breathe life into your organization.Continue Reading

How to Hire a Fundraiser: Don’t Try to Make a Chicken out of a Fish-Pt.2

chicken out of fish 300x271 How to Hire a Fundraiser: Don’t Try to Make a Chicken out of a Fish Pt.2

No matter what you do, you can’t make a chicken out of a fish.

In Part 1 of this article I outlined the performance habits (practice) and innate qualities (psychology) to look for in a candidate for a chief fundraising job. I encouraged you to ask candidates questions that probe for these behaviors and qualities.

Equally important to the questions you ask the candidate are the questions s/he asks you.
Continue Reading

You’re Not Alone: What to Do When Leadership Loses Its Way- Pt. 2

follow the leader 300x225 You’re Not Alone: What to Do When Leadership Loses Its Way  Pt. 2

Is “leader” (or “director”) just a word in your job title? Or is it something you do?

In my last post of this two-part series, “You’re Not Alone: What to Do When You Start to Fail at Fundraising,” I discussed what can happen to organizations when leadership begins to lose its way. This can occur for any number of reasons.

Why Leadership Loses it’s Way

  • FOUNDER LEAVES with no succession plan in place.
  • Founder STAYS TOO LONG, and their founding vision no longer resonates with an evolving constituency and/or landscape.
  • Significant staff and/or board TURNOVER at the executive level.
  • No board turnover, terms of office or adherence to BYLAWS dictating board roles and responsibilities.
  • Organizational INFRASTRUCTURE is dysfunctional (e.g., there are too few committees; all the real work gets done in executive committee; power is lopsided in favor of the E.D. or the board; there is no governance committee holding members accountable; staff support for board is insufficient; board refuse to accept their responsibility for financing).
  • Organization’s leaders are good at MANAGING only one way (e.g. during a period of growth, contraction or status quo) but are not so good at managing through another modality.
  • Organization lacks SKILLS and/or access to RESOURCES essential to survival in a changing environment
  • … and more.

Most organizations share similar traits.  That being said,  every organization is different and I definitely don’t believe in cookie cutter solutions.  In an upcoming post I’ll discuss how to embrace your organization’s particular challenges and face them head on.

Today I’d like to share with you a few  ‘quick and dirty’ recommendations that most commonly flow from the development audits I conduct for organizations who find themselves in this situation.  While you may not need to make changes in all of these areas, my hunch is that if your fundraising has plateaued or has been heading steadily downward, you’ll want to be considering changes in these key areas.

A 6-Step Road Map to Successfully Turn Things Around

  1. Integrate fundraising and marketing under the leadership of a seasoned development professional.

Nonprofit marketing and fundraising have changed more in the past five years than the preceding 50. The digital revolution ended business as usual. Per the 2014 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report, the biggest challenges nonprofits face today are:

  • donor acquisition;
  • community engagement;
  • brand awareness, and
  • donor retention.

You must attack your greatest challenges head on as you move forward. You won’t succeed if you try to do this catch-as-catch can, leaving folks to figure out what to do on their own. More than ever, successful development requires strategic leadership. You’re in a battle to win over donor hearts – not just once, but over and over to sustain and build loyalty you can count on. You won’t win the war unless you pull together your team, and your resources, and get everyone together on the same page. And that page must be in line with the way today’s donors and advocates research, engage, and ultimately support organizations.

Fundraising and marketing must be seamlessly integrated. They cannot be separate silos any longer. Staff with responsibilities in these areas must speak the same language.  Responsibilities must be clearly assigned, both to prevent fights over territory and to assure nothing slips through the cracks. Department meetings should be held regularly so everyone understands the role they play in contributing towards the big picture goal.

  1. Clarify the role of the board, both as a whole (governance) and as individual members (financing).
  • Work through a Governance Committee to make a plan to add more qualified board members— develop job descriptions, identify needed skills and recruit new members who understand their leadership role in both governance and financing, and assign staff to actively support members and develop customized development work plans with manageable ambassador, advocacy and asking assignments for each individual.
  • Make a formal plan for recruiting and training leadership volunteers — board, associate advisory group and other volunteers to expand volunteer participation and engagement.
  • Expand the Fundraising Committee (consider adding a few former board,  major donors, other committee or direct service volunteers or other influencers) and clarify their role overseeing, evaluating and approving fundraising initiatives. Delegate subcommittees, as needed, to steer major initiatives , events or campaigns.
  1. Build and develop a board and committee structure to evolve to a stronger, more engaged and more diversified fundraising board.
  • Clarify the role of standing committees, ad hoc committees and subcommittees in moving fundraising/marketing forward .
  •  Schedule regular meetings with your full board to reinforce  the strategic ways in which different committees interact and to inspire energy around vision/mission/values).
  • Consider a retreat to discuss  committee (as a whole) assignments and ambassador, advocate and asker tasks (for individual members).
  1. Clarify your mission/vision goals; case for support, and stories.
  • Engage in team-building exercises to energize board and staff and reconnect them with their passions for this work (include time to socialize; learn about each other).
  • Engage in skill-finding exercises and skill-building workshops to re-enforce strength areas and build confidence and collaboration (e.g. “Gallup Strengths Finder for staff; Branding, Personas, Storytelling and/or Content Marketing for all; Fundraising training for board).
  1. Develop and implement a clearly articulated written strategic development plan.
  • Build and polish prospect lists to acquire new donors.
  • Develop and implement a customer-centered stewardship system to renew and upgrade donors.
  • Reframe, consolidate or eliminate strategies that are no longer working effectively.
  1. Build an inbound content marketing program to support development.

You can’t do anything if you don’t have the supporters you need to see your mission through to fruition.  You’ve got to spend money to make money.  These days that means investing in staff and technology that allows you to build relationships online. The digital revolution has ended business as usual. Today, you’ve got to invest time in thinking how to make dynamic frameworks that serve fundraising. Pair your passion to further your mission with the incredibly exciting fact that digital tools and channels will ensure that the way you can engage with people will be constantly evolving. So no one can afford to sit back and wait to follow. The world moves too fast today. There’s simply no substitute for leadership. This is beautifully summarized in Tony Elischer’s Rebuilding the Donor Pyramid:

In the digital world of fundraising it is the leaders who reap the rewards, rarely the followers.


Get the 7 Clairification Keys to Unlock Your Nonprofit’s Fundraising Potential. Through a series of clairifying worksheets and individual and group exercises, this 23-page guide will give you fresh insights into how fundraising and marketing have changed more in the past 5 years than in the previous 50.

Image courtesy of freedigitalimages.net


You’re Not Alone: What To Do When You Start To Fail at Fundraising

sinking ship 216x300 You’re Not Alone: What To Do When You Start To Fail at Fundraising

It may be noble for the Captain to go down with the sinking ship, but a compelling fundraising offer it is not.

Once upon a time (around about 2008) a big mean recession cast its dark shadow over many a nonprofit. Grantors cut back on funding. Donors zipped up their wallets. Salaries and benefits got cut. Seasoned professionals were laid off, or left voluntarily. Others lasted awhile, but became increasingly discouraged.

Six years out from the biggest stock market crash since 1929, I’m beginning to hear a lot of organizations crying “Uncle!” These are the ones that, for reasons unbeknownst to them, have not rebounded. And they’re desperately trying to beat back the wolf at the door.

The thing they fear most? Failure.Continue Reading

Is the Civil Sector in Death Spiral Mode?

Withering Tree 168x300 Is the Civil Sector in Death Spiral Mode?

Wither civil society?

Today’s post is a quick – yet very thought-provoking – share.

I happened upon Ruth McCambridge’s feature story for Nonprofit Quarterly, Jeremy Rifkin: The Future of the Economy is There for the Civil Sector to Claim.  In it she dissects Rifkin’s op ed for the New York Times, “The Rise of Anti-Capitalism.” I often hear a lot of doom and gloom about our sector, so this inspired me.

Maybe we’re not in a death spiral. Yet.

But we do have to create our own future.Continue Reading

3 Keys to Rethink Fundraising Risk and Reward in 2014

Guitar riff 199x300 3 Keys to Rethink Fundraising Risk and Reward in 2014

Are you ready to riff this year?

When should you take risks with fundraising? When you’re ready. Here’s what I mean:

You Can’t Riff Without a Guitar. News flash: You’ve got to do the basics before you improvise.

What’s on your playlist for 2014?  The rewarding gold standards like prospecting, asking and stewarding? Or riskier new events? Special campaigns? Extra social media?  You’re to be congratulated if you’ve got innovative ideas. It shows you haven’t lost your creative spark, and you’ve got gusto and passion for what you do. Bravo! But… wait… hold on a minute…

Before you get lost in the creative process, Continue Reading

Less is not Enough:Why Your Nonprofit Needs to Spend More on Fundraising

Philanthropy, Not Fundraising

“Incremental Change is Not an Option.” 

Dream Big1 Less is not Enough:Why Your Nonprofit Needs to Spend More on FundraisingWhat if this was your charity’s mantra? This is so different than “We keep overhead super low.”  The first means dreaming on a large scale, and reaching for true solutions to social problems.  The latter, not so much.

For years donors have been taught to look for low overhead as a sign of effectiveness. When you stop to think about it, it makes little common sense. Who cares if you spend only 5 cents on the dollar if you only net $71 from your bake sale?  Will this solve your problem? Whatever resources are needed to solve the problem, those are the resources that must be spent.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.Continue Reading