What’s Wrong with Healthcare Philanthropy: Addressing the Issue of Fundraiser Turnover

Did you know that the average tenure for a fundraiser in the healthcare sector is about 15-16 months? Surveys show, people start thinking about leaving within 3-4 months in a new position. Turnover in fundraising is costly for an organization – costs could exceed $100,000, not counting costs for recruitment and losses in donations during the transition period. The issue of turnover has been addressed many times before, and turnover remains a problem.

The Most Common Mistakes Leaders Make Contributing to High Turnover in their Fundraising Staff

  • Not granting meaningful career development opportunities. Many organizations do not provide mentoring programs, classes or courses to help their fundraising professionals excel in their role. Some organizations don’t create annual development plans with their fundraising staff, taking away opportunities to learn, grow and become better fundraisers.
  • Bad or “toxic” culture. Toxic culture comes from a lack of communication, lack of trust, and no real reward or appreciation for any professional or personal achievements.
  • The lack of financial evaluation. Yes, we are taking about underpayment. Low salaries, multiplied by excessive workloads, equals high turnover. Many professionals leave as other organizations offer a higher salary.
  • A rigid schedule. The not-for-profit sector should be focused on the work and not on the hours worked. Fundraisers want help balancing the pressure of career, other interests, and family. According to a recent study, fundraisers state that they want the option to work from home, have more flexible hours, and be offered additional vacation time.
  • Expecting staff to work more than 40 hours per week. Even “a standard” 40-hour week is now considered to be too much for people to be productive. And still, many organizations require overworking, making people work 50+ hour work weeks.
  • The lack of clear goals and/or effective leadership. The issue of clear expectations addresses a moral/emotional aspect for fundraisers, but many people report they lose that certain drive as they lose a clear goal of their efforts. Effective leadership can solve this issue, but it’s not often considered until it’s too late.

5 Ways to Curb Even the Highest Philanthropy Turnover

  1. Change your culture. Cultivate positive and trusting relationships with your fundraising professionals (and everyone else, really). Celebrate their success, offer professional feedback, and be open to dialogue and options.
  2. Outsource your workforce. If you want to find an easy option, you can outsource some functions in your fundraising program. There are companies that are willing to offer their expertise to help your organization raise more funds. This can be a long-term or short-term solution based on your need.
  3. Hire within your organization. Only 29% of nonprofit organizations decide to promote their workforce and hire within. That doesn’t make sense. As a manager, there most likely are people working for you can be trained or given other opportunities that will provide them with a career challenge.
  4. Ease your working conditions. Be open to the possibility of flexible working arrangements. Many of your employees would welcome the flexibility to work from home a few days per week. Or maybe you could give them a more accommodating schedule.
  5. Review salaries on a regular basis. It’s important to evaluate the not-for-profit marketplace to make sure your organization is offering competitive salaries. It is a good strategy for retaining your best performers.

Great managers can curb high turnover. The fact that the issue remains a big problem in the not-for-profit sector only means that organizations are not willing to listen and to change. Complacency is probably the biggest problem facing our profession. Changing the culture and the conditions within an organization can only benefit everyone and create strong bonds between employees.

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