Development professionals are known for high turnover rates. Ironic considering the percentage of their job that they spend developing relationships. So what accounts for the constant change? Why is nonprofit employee turnover so high? And, what can you do about it?
Turnover might not be the industry – it might be your nonprofit. Sure, nonprofits have trouble retaining development professionals but that is often because these employees feel unsupported by management, they are seeking a better work/life balance or the nonprofit is short-staffed which leaves them feeling unsuccessful. And these are all problems that will continue with each new employee unless management and the board take steps to change the situation.
If the problem is that the last person didn’t fit with the organization take a thorough look at your hiring practices. Were you asking the right questions? Were you asking the same questions of all of your prospective employees? Were you selling the organization as much as learning about the candidate? Was your job description accurate? Was your job description achievable or did you list off your dream list assuming the right candidate could get it all done?
Your nonprofit has a small budget so the best bet is to find someone who is either an up and coming star or someone who will grow into the role. The reality is often different – even if you find someone with amazing potential. All too often they don’t stay long enough for your nonprofit to reap the rewards of getting more than you pay for. If they are up and coming – they will leave for a better paid position when they find it. Positions that offer “growth opportunities” often lack the training that would help the employee grow. Is there access to personal development and continuing professional education? Is there time set aside for it?
“Budgets are limited.” “The Development Director can’t make more than the Executive Director.” “The right person will have the passion and will be okay with making a little less for a good cause.” In theory, these statements are all true. In reality, you are not going to find someone for half the price to do all the work for twice as long as your last employee. Good causes still have to pay employees. And often, you have to raise the pay of the executive director to pay for a strong development professional.
If you find yourself in the same position again and again consider calling Mersky, Jaffe & Associates. We can help examine your hiring practices or conduct your next search. We may not always give you the answers you want, but we will give you the answers that help you reduce high turnover and secure donor relationships. Which will pay dividends.