Even before the pandemic, high staff turnover and low retention within development teams presented significant challenges for nonprofits. Now, amid the Great Resignation where people are seeking work that better aligns with their personal goals and lifestyle, retaining talented fundraising staff has become more difficult than ever.

The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) recently reported that the voluntary turnover rate for fundraising professionals was nearly 20% – much higher than the industry average of 12%. Additionally, the average tenure of a fundraiser is only 16 months (Philanthropy Daily). This instability impacts an organization’s ability to achieve long-term success and can lead to a disruption of donor relationships, missed fundraising opportunities, and an overall decline in revenue. With top fundraising talent frequently leaving their roles, it’s imperative for development teams to create supportive, caring environments that are essential for sustained organizational growth and effectiveness.  

Here are four strategies that nonprofits can adopt to establish a supportive development team culture:

  1. Provide opportunities for ongoing growth and development. Development departments should provide fundraising staff with opportunities to learn and grow, both within and outside the organization. Internally, this might mean encouraging continuous learning within your team, sharing relevant articles or resources that can help expand their knowledge, inviting guest speakers to share insights, and investing in the team’s growth through professional development stipends and industry memberships. There are also plenty of outside training opportunities that exist, including conferences, workshops, professional certificate programs, and more. By investing in the professional development of your team members, you are showing that you value their growth and are committed to helping them succeed.
  2. Encourage a healthy work-life balance. In a fast-paced environment like fundraising, promoting a healthy work-life balance helps staff to take the necessary space to rest and recharge so they can stay motivated and avoid burnout. There are many ways to do this, including encouraging team members to use their vacation time, bringing wellness activities to staff (virtual yoga, meditation, breathing exercises), providing access to mental health care, or even creating flexible work and time off arrangements. For example, one of MPT’s amazing clients, Fresh Lifelines for Youth, has a week-long summer rejuvenation break each year!
  3. Create an open and inclusive environment. Fostering a culture of inclusiveness where diversity is valued, and everyone feels seen and heard might be one of the most important things an organization can do to increase retention. Promoting an authentic culture of kindness, empathy, and support should be done at every level of the organization – from HR policies and diversity recruitment to celebrating cultural events in the workplace. On a departmental level, this can also be done by creating regular team-building opportunities, fostering opportunities for connection beyond work projects, and creating channels for open and honest communication within teams.
  4. Recognize and celebrate successes. Fundraising roles can be quite demanding with constant deadlines, ongoing pressure to generate income, frequent rejections, and more. With this in mind, it’s important to recognize and celebrate both individual and team achievements throughout the year. Meaningful recognition can look like simple expressions of gratitude, public shoutouts to team members, small rewards or team outings, monetary incentives and bonuses, or even some extra time off. Celebrating success creates a positive team atmosphere and motivates folks to continue their incredible work. After all, fundraisers are the lifeblood of an organization and should be recognized as such! 

Need help? Call My Philanthropy Team! Whether you need a customized development strategy, training and education for your team, or leadership development, My Philanthropy Team is dedicated to meeting clients where they are. By providing strategic guidance, training, and ongoing support, we can help you establish a supportive development culture that enhances your fundraising efforts and strengthens your impact in the community. Schedule a call today! 

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