Originally published August 12, 2015

In our nonprofit work, we often focus our talent discussions on the frontline, asking ourselves if we are doing enough to find and grow our major gift officers in a scarce environment. However, as development shops grow and the industry evolves, we are on the cusp of a parallel talent crisis for prospect development, information systems, and other operations services. Best practices will soon be determined by development programs that are proactive in attracting, valuing, and growing talent in these areas. This is evident because:

The Non-Profit World Will be Competing with Other Ondustries in the Talent Shortage

Consider this: A McKinsey & Company study predicts that, by 2018, the United States could face a shortage of up to 190,000 workers with deep analytical skills and 1.5 million managers and analysts with the ability to use big data analytics to make effective decisions. We are competing globally not just for the “data geeks” but also for decision-makers who can meaningfully apply data to practice and strategy. These positions will become increasingly hard to fill in nonprofits, as private sector salaries increase accordingly.

Fundraising is Increasingly Data-Driven

Gone are the days when fundraising was an activity driven solely by a chief development officer and the rolodexes of the board. Development offices are increasingly reliant on data (and the team members who can maintain, interpret, and report on that data) in large part due to three realities.
Organizations have more data to work with—both in tracking constituents over time and in accessing information about them through research.


There are more sophisticated tools for interpreting and analyzing data—analytics, predictive modeling, and other donor analysis.


Utilizing data transforms outcomes—established prospect management and analytics programs are strongly correlated to higher fundraiser performance and better ROI on annual giving.


However, high-level data analysis cannot exist without strong practices and continuity of the team managing the data and databases themselves. In our industry, record management, tracking, and reporting are often practices specific to the institutions. Retaining talent in operations establishes consistency in those practices so that the records are accurate, the data in turn is reliable, and the analysis of the data is sound.

Operations Team Members Must Have Multi-Faceted Strengths to be Successful

Operations, prospect development, and information services cover a wide variety of program types and teams. They can include everything from financial management to prospect management to stewardship and events. In many cases our operations teams are heavily dominated by early career professionals, and the gap between entry level positions and the next level of seniority is wide. Managers and directors in operations have to embody multiple professional strengths to be successful. However, we seldom invest in building the robust skill sets of these critical employees. Consider the many areas requiring the focus of top operations leaders.

  • Risk Assessment
  • Resource Management
  • Compliance and Protocols
  • Project Management
  • Systems Utilization and Training
  • Data Management, Analysis, and Reporting
  • Donor Experience and Prospect Coordination
  • Internal and External Messaging and Branding
  • Integration of Operations Teams and Data with Strategic Decision Making
  • Solutions that Meet the Core Business Needs of a Variety of Teams
  • Industry, Vendor, and Peer Research
  • Priority Setting and Internal Alignment
  • Performance Management and Gap Analysis

As talent management rises in its prominence in leadership concerns, conference agendas, and resource investment, organizations must ensure that the conversation targets both the frontline and the infrastructural talent to make true development success a reality.

Bentz Whaley Flessner’s experts in talent management, analytics, and operations and systems can help your organization develop new and existing talent on your data and operations teams. For more information please contact us at training@bwf.com or call (952) 921-0111.

Source: McKinsey Report Highglights the Impending Data Scientist Shortage

Copyright © 2015 Bentz Whaley Flessner & Associates, Inc.

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