This post is part-four in a four-part series titled “Reimagining the Non-Profit Workplace”

My guess is that right now, either you or someone you know has left or is thinking about leaving their organization for another position. In this blog series, “Reimagining the Non-Profit Workplace,” I’ve written about the state of bad management, what a toxic workplace looks like, what good management entails, and in today’s installment, I’ll discuss how you can keep good people.

I would say in all my research for these recent posts, employee retention has by far the most information. There are scores of resources on how to keep good employees, yet here we are in the middle of the “Great Resignation” because we don’t listen or implement this research and advice.

But perhaps this post will inspire you. Let me first throw out some statistics that, to me, are mind-boggling. According to surveys:
  • 40% of employees who don’t rate their supervisor highly have interviewed for a new job in the last 3 months. Only 10% who rate their supervisor highly have interviewed.
  • Employees who don’t get recognized for their work are twice as likely to be job hunting.
  • 23% are more likely to stay when their managers clearly state their roles and responsibilities.
  • Companies that support remote work have a 25% lower employee turnover rate.
  • It costs on average 33% of that employee’s compensation to replace that person when they leave for another position.

Clearly, retaining your employees is critical, but even more so for your front-line fundraising staff. Because not only do you have the cost to replace that fundraiser, but the damage and loss of revenue from their donor portfolio is even greater.

Richard and I will tell you that overall, from years of developing major gift programs, it really takes two full years to get a new front-line fundraiser established and growing their portfolio. This is because, as we should all know by now, it takes time to build trusting relationships with donors. In those two years, you have an opportunity as a leader or manager to create effective practices that can help your organization retain these good people.

Here are some proven, effective practices from the SHRM Foundation that will help you:
  • Recruitment practices can strongly influence turnover, and considerable research shows that presenting applicants with a realistic job preview during the recruitment process has a positive effect on retention of those new hires. 
  • Turnover is often high among new employees. Socialization practices—delivered via a strategic onboarding and assimilation program—can help new hires become embedded in the company and thus more likely to stay. These practices include shared and individualized learning experiences, formal and informal activities that help people get to know one another, and the assignment of more-seasoned employees as role models for new hires.
  • Training and development.If employees are not given opportunities to continually update their skills, they are more inclined to leave.
  • Compensation and rewards. Pay levels and satisfaction are only modest predictors of an employee’s decision to leave the organization; however, a company has three possible strategies:
    1. Lead the market with respect to compensation and rewards.
    2. Tailor rewards to individual needs in a person-based pay structure.
    3. Explicitly link rewards to retention (e.g., tie vacation hours to seniority, offer retention bonuses or stock options to longer-term employees, or link defined benefit plan payouts to years of service).
  • Several studies have suggested that fair treatment by a supervisor is the most important determinant of retention. This would lead a company to focus on supervisory and management development and communication skill-building.
  • Employee engagement. Engaged employees are satisfied with their jobs, enjoy their work and the organization, believe that their job is important, take pride in their company, and believe that their employer values their contributions. One study found that highly engaged employees were five times less likely to quit than employees who were not engaged.

We have written extensively about how to retain good front-line fundraisers over the years. In fact, you can download this white paper now.

But, in our latest book, It’s Not JUST About the Donor, we highlight several key ways for you as a manager and leader to specifically keep good front-line fundraisers:
  1. Don’t push the front-line fundraiser to “get the money.”
  2. Provide adequate administrative support.
  3. Go on donor visits with your fundraiser.
  4. Don’t give MGOs work that takes them away from donors.
  5. Pay them well and reward them for a job well done.
  6. Publicly and privately acknowledge good work.
  7. Give them the freedom to work outside the system.
  8. Protect them from the organizational hairball.
  9. Have their backs!

These are the things you can do as a leader or manager to not just retain your good fundraisers but help them thrive and find meaning and joy in their work. That should be part of your mission as an organization beyond what you are doing every day that is changing the world. You don’t want to solve a need in the world and hurt your own people in the process. You can change the world AND provide a place where your people can grow and be fulfilled in their work.

Can you now imagine with me, what our organizations could look like if we were to embrace that?


  1. Front-line Fundraisers Are Leaving… And It’s Your Fault
  2. How to Deal With and Change a Toxic Non-Profit Culture
  3. How to Be A Manager People Want to Work For
  4. Hiring and Retaining the Right Fundraising Talent (this post)