Join The NonProfit Times: or Become a member

Subscribe: Print Publication or Newsletter

Stay connected.
Stay informed.

Half Of All Fundraisers Flee

By Patrick Sullivan - July 9, 2013

More than half of all chief development officers (CDOs) recently polled served less than two years in their most recent position, according to a study by Campbell & Company. A panel of chief development officers shared how things could and should be during the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) International Conference on Fundraising (ICON).

Marian DeBerry, director of executive search at Chicago, Ill.-based Campbell & Company, asked the three panel members their thoughts on how to prevent high turnover in development. “You really have to make sure you have a CEO with realistic expectations who understands the nonprofit industry,” said Amy Franze, executive vice president of field development for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

St. Louis Art Museum Development Director Carl Hamm agreed: “Shared expectations from the beginning are a reason why people leave because there’s a breakdown in communication,” he said. According to the Campbell & Company study, titled “CDO Confidential,” 75 percent of CDOs and 62 percent of CEOs cited unrealistic expectations as the reasons for high development director turnover.

Mark Stuart, chief development and membership officer for San Diego Zoo Global in San Diego, Calif., tried a unique approach in getting his CEO’s expectations lined up with the realities of development. “I got my CEO out of the office and visited donors,” he said. “He got to see why (the donors) were passionate, what they do now and what they’d do in the long term.”

More than one in four (28 percent) CDOs said their organization’s lack of understanding of development was a reason for their short tenure. To identify if there is a lack of understanding, Stuart suggested new CDOs ask their CEOs two questions: What is your vision for the next five to 10 years, and what are you willing to do to invest in philanthropy to achieve that vision. “If you can’t get clear answers, that’s not a place I would want to work,” said Stuart. “It’s a place that doesn’t see the role of philanthropy to fuel its vision.”

High turnover trickles down from CDOs to their staff. DeBerry noted that 18 to 30 months is the average tenure of a development professional, and asked, “What if this is the new normal?” DeBerry said that an 18-month tenure in a 20-year work history is not of concern to her, but she worries when she sees three successive 18-month tenures. “No matter how good (the candidate) is the real worth of their experience is six years back. If you’ve been somewhere for two years, you were finishing someone else’s work,” she said. Franze agreed, saying, “I want individuals who have been through the highs and lows of an organization.”

One of the keys to keeping gift officers, according to panelists, was making sure to hire the right person in the first place. There is a shortage of qualified candidates, said DeBerry. “When I interview people to work at the zoo, I don’t even look at the résumé anymore,” said Stuart. “I ask, ‘what are you passionate about?’ I want to hear ‘wildlife, conservation, education.’ Trying to hire someone based on passion is how to keep someone.”

Stuart and Franze both said that professional development programs help in retaining talent, as do benefits. Franze cited advancement opportunities, health benefits, investment plans and cross-share positions as some of the perks of working for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Hamm said that mangers must be clear about their expectations. “If all I care about is their output, they’re going to get frustrated,” he said. “I’d rather work with someone who’s learning and growing.”

A crucial component of a successful CDO tenure is getting the lay of the organizational land as quickly as possible. “You have to hit the ground running,” said Stuart. He said within two months of being hired at the zoo, he had to make a $500,000 ask of a couple he barely knew.

Hamm noted that it can be a challenge going from being a practitioner of a specific subset of development, such as major gifts or the annual campaign, to overseeing everyone. “Not doing the work product elements is liberating but challenging,” he said. “You don’t get to spend as much time on the things that brought you to that spot, and that’s something I didn’t anticipate.”

CDOs should not discount relationships with chief financial officers, either. “Talk about things that people don’t tell you when you take a CDO position,” said Hamm. “It’s one of the most important relationships. There’s nuance in the way we count gifts, the way we approach gifts we’d pursue. Even if you don’t see things eye to eye, you must understand and respect the position.” Stuart put it more succinctly: “Always make sure you’re best friends with the CFO because they have all the money,” he said.

Help the Nonprofit Community by Participating in a Survey!

Complete NPT’s 2013 Salary and Benefits Survey and you will receive a FREE Executive Summary of the results as well as 50% off the full report.

Click Here to Begin the Survey!

Podcast_forHub_500x500

Sponsored Podcasts

Welcome to the Raise & Engage podcast, a filters-off series for nonprofit professionals hosted by Blackbaud's straight-shooting expert Danielle Johnson Vermenton. During this open-mic session, you’ll hear honest advice to help YOU do more for your cause.

Episode 6: The Power of ‘No’ at Work|| daniellejohnson-76

You have a job description, but on any given day, you're probably doing dozens of things outside the scope of that description. Combine that with the challenge of a fast-paced environment and the shifting priorities of funders, colleagues, and board members and it’s easy to fall short of doing your best. By being mindful of your limitations and capacity—and saying “no” when your plate is full—you can actually do more for your cause. In the sixth installment of the Raise and Engage podcast Danielle Johnson and Robin Anderson discuss the power of saying “no” at work.

Episode 5: Professional Development: Getting Un-Stuck|| daniellejohnson-76

In the most recent episode of Raise + Engage, Danielle is back with Brian Reich from little m media to discuss how nonprofit professionals can stay motivated and energized in their day-to-day roles. Brian shares his experience working with nonprofits and the lessons and tips he's learn from and shared with them over the years, including tips for avoiding a professional rut, creating forward momentum in your career and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. If you're considering making a career move or want to ensure you're on the right path, you won't want to miss this inspo-packed episode!

Episode 4: Apps and Hacks to Stay (Mostly) Sane || daniellejohnson-76

Episode 4: Apps and Hacks to Stay (Mostly) Sane, is all about tips, tricks and tools for sanity. Blackbaud’s own interactive product marketer, Julia Lenz, joins host Danielle Johnson to share some high tech. (and no tech.) productivity tips to help nonprofit professionals stay sane in the crazy world of philanthropy.

Tune in to hear:

  • Tips for how to spend the first 30 minutes of your day
  • The benefits of 15 minute meetings
  • Why notebooks are still relevant to a successful organization
  • Ideas for better managing your inbox
  • Why you should take lunch outside the box
  • ...and much more!
Don’t forget to visit the #NoFilterNonprofit Hub afterwards to download our newest tip sheet10 Productivity Hacks for Nonprofits.

Episode 3: Tech. Connection: Solutions, Strategy, and Staff || daniellejohnson-76

Episode 3: Tech. Connection: Solutions, Strategy, and Staff In episode 3 of the Raise + Engage podcast, Danielle Johnson is joined by Chris Geady and William DaSilva, two IT experts in the nonprofit space, to talk technology integration for NPOs: when you need it, when you don’t, and how to do it successfully.


Tune in to hear:

  • When to say NO to integration
  • How to set your strategic plan before even looking at technologies
  • Ways to get your entire team on board
  • The importance of identifying a project lead
  • The RFP process - how it should and should not go
And William shares a story about a nonprofit that may or may not have still been using a typewriter. You don't want to miss this one!

Episode 2: From Socially Awkward to Socially Awesome! || daniellejohnson-76

According to Danielle Johnson, straight-shooting host of the Raise + Engage podcast series, if your staff members aren’t the number one advocates for your cause on social media, you’re failing. In the most recent episode, Danielle is joined by Blackbaud’s own social media guru Madeline Turner to discuss overcoming social struggles and creating a social ambassador program at your organization. This entertaining and insightful duo dishes on the importance of making your social media presence human, making the case for a formal social program to leadership, how University of Michigan turned a one time social media campaign into a long term social program, and how Madeline's mom unknowingly became a social ambassador on #GivingTuesday.

Episode 1: Corporate Culture & Development: Shake It Up! || daniellejohnson-76

In the premiere episode of Raise & Engage, Danielle is joined by three straight-shooting nonprofit rock-stars: Jodi Smith of Sanford Health Systems, Veronica Brown of Chicago Public Library Foundation and Ali Burke of Southlake Regional Health Centre Foundation. The group talks organizational culture, problem employees, why its important to celebrate and how to shake things up this year and build a better more authentic team that gets stuff done!

Newsletters

Stay informed, catch latest trends in the nonprofit space.

Subscribe to Our Free Newsletter

No obligation, unsubscribe at anytime.

Success! Check your email inbox.

Follow Us On Twitter

NPT 2016 Buyers' Guide

Newsletter Sign-up



click here to return to the previous page