The departure rate of good people from non-profits is staggering. The latest statistics show that average tenure of a development person is 18 months, and that’s if everything is going well. But the scary thing is that more than half of the frontline fundraisers (51%) say they will leave in the next two years, with 30% of them saying they are leaving fundraising altogether.

The troubling thing is that most of these employees are good people who the non-profit should not lose and cannot afford to lose. But they are losing them, in droves. And it seems that no one really cares about that.

If they did care, they would do something about what’s causing these people to quit. But what is that? What will be the reason your good employee leaves you? Here is what Jeff and I know. Your good fundraisers will leave you because:

  1. You didn’t keep your promise on the job description. You said the job was one thing – in the case of a frontline fundraiser, it was to manage a caseload of qualified donors – but you had them organizing events and doing other work.
  2. You set unreasonable goals. You arbitrarily said “raise XX% more” rather than looking at each donor and determining their ability and propensity to give.
  3. You valued archaic performance metrics. You demanded a certain number of face-to-face meetings per month with donors – a metric that is old and outdated and does not measure meaningful connections.
  4. You viewed the donor as a source of cash instead of a true partner. You only cared about what money you could get from the donor, not fulfilling that donor’s passions and interests.
  5. You were cheap on compensation. You paid your frontline fundraiser as little as you could, making the case that this was a non-profit and wages need to be low.
  6. You didn’t mandate that finance and program support your development staff. I use the word mandate because it is non-negotiable not to have finance and program be an integral part of creating donor offers and reporting back to donors on how their giving made a difference.
  7. You demanded “new money” from new donors. Instead of looking for good donors you already have in your file for your mid-level and major gift program, you demanded that your frontline fundraiser go find new donors who would bring new money to your organization. You ignored that your current donors are giving 40-60% less than they did last year and redirected your frontline fundraisers to focus not on restoring those good donors’ giving, but to find new donors.
  8. Your investments in fundraising were unbalanced. You invested more expense budget in events, public relations, and high-profile programs than you did in mid, major, and planned gifts where you could have received high return on investment. You did this because it felt good, and you were servicing requests for more budget from managers who were your friends rather than working toward a balanced fundraising investment portfolio.
  9. You allowed a hostile environment to thrive under your leadership. You allowed certain department managers to dominate the organizations’ resources and other managers because you favored what they were doing, or they were politically more powerful than others, rather than give equal time, power, and influence to all your managers.
  10. You were slow on praise and fast on criticism. You spent more time criticizing your team’s shortcomings than you did praising their successes.

Look at this list. Can you find one or two items that might be true for you? If so, resolve in 2023 to be a more balanced and objective leader and manager.

And then, take steps to do the following:

  1. Do not let strong, powerful people you manage negatively affect the work of others. Set boundaries. Demand openness, fairness, and professionalism.
  2. Create an expense budget in fundraising that properly invests in the entire donor pipeline in a manner that promotes growth and upgrading of donors as they travel through it.
  3. Allow all the voices at your management table to speak and have equal time and influence. Reign in those who would dominate and suppress. Raise up those who would naturally be quiet and reserved.
  4. Be just and fair in all your management practices.
  5. Love the donor for who they are, not what they can do for you. Proof of this is in how you invest in the systems that serve donors after they give. All the efforts around gift receipts, thank you notes, and reporting back on how their giving made a difference.

Don’t be the reason that your good fundraisers leave you. Demonstrate that you care for them and acknowledge their important role. It will pay big dividends for your professionally and for the organization whose fundraising you manage.