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Why hire and retain fundraising staff right now?

By Christa Orth
August 25, 2020

Now Hiring sign posted in the grass with lawn and trees behind it
Photo by Free To Use Sounds on Unsplash

In the midst of a pandemic, financial recession, and uprisings for racial justice, it may seem counterintuitive to hire more staff to support your nonprofit. But there are many revenue opportunities for organizations right now; hiring and retaining staff in your development department can benefit your nonprofit greatly. Sustaining professional fundraisers in this moment is the key to unlocking the future of your organization and your mission.

Giving is growing among donors of all levels. Major donors plan to increase their giving this year. Smaller donations to Black-led and civil rights organizations spiked in the wake of the death of George Floyd—in many cases, donations to individual organizations numbered in the tens of thousands. Nonprofits have transformed their programs, services, and advocacy to meet the moment, giving them compelling stories to tell to raise funds from eager supporters. Organizations with strong development departments are coming out on top.

If your organization needs to add fundraising human resources to your ranks, prepare for growth by taking a look at your fundraising infrastructure. Ensure your donor database is clean and up to date. Revisit your donor acknowledgment system to make certain it is solid. Design a major gifts program to entice individuals and family foundations that can make substantial contributions. Review your online donation portal to ensure it is easy for donors to click and give. Train and engage your board in fundraising, and make your development committee as active as possible.

When you are ready to expand your development staff, or even hire your first development position, envision your ideal org chartconsider which roles are most important for your fundraising strategies. Perhaps you need a major gift officer to steward higher giving, a social media manager to build your digital presence, or someone who will focus on your precious donor data.

As you consider candidates, practice equitable hiring methods to attract as diverse a pool as possible. Unfortunately, in the field of fundraising, because of systemic racism and bias, professionals of color have not been hired or have been pushed out of their roles. Create an environment from the very beginning of your hiring process to attract and retain BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) talent. Emphasizing lived experience over educational requirements, being transparent about salary requirements (never asking for salary history), and encouraging people from historically marginalized groups to apply will signal to all applicants that your workplace is one that will value them for years to come.

Fundraising staff typically only stay in their roles for an abysmally short period of time—16 months—so you must ensure that once you attract your talented new fundraising staff, they want to stay with your organization. Always embrace a culture of abundance with your staffpay them well, provide flexible work hours, and offer remote work options. Invest in professional development and mentorship. Give fundraising departments the budget they need for online tools, mailings, in-person and virtual events, and professional resources through consultants or temporary staff. If you fight burnout early and often for your fundraisers, you will keep them on your team and raising money for your mission well into the future.

Want to learn more?

Join my colleague Samra Ghermay and me on September 10, 2020, at Candid’s webinar “How to Staff Up Your Fundraising Department Right Now.” We’ll discuss what you need to get ready to hire development staff, which roles are best for smaller shops, how to attract diverse candidates, strategies to retain your staff as you grow and raise money together, and how and when to utilize volunteers in fundraising, including your board. Register for the webinar.

Tags: Management and administration; Fundraising