As we anticipate trends impacting nonprofits in 2013, “fundraising isn’t expected to significantly increase” rises to the top. This probably isn’t a surprise for most and does in fact align more or less with what we’ve seen from the Blackbaud Index. With a still struggling US economy you can choose to view this trend positively or negatively. Either way, it is probably pretty accurate.

UnderDeveloped, a recent report from CompassPoint, examines fundraising trends from a different direction, from within nonprofit organizations. How are development staffs set up for success? Who is doing the heavy lifting? What are the expectations?

A few stand-out points from that report are as follows

  • Less than half of nonprofit executive directors have previous fund development experience.
  • Executive directors at organizations where the development director position was vacant reported a median vacancy length of 6 months, with 46% reporting even longer vacancies.
  • Half of development directors anticipate leaving their current jobs in two years or less.

Knowing that fundraising is expect to carry on as-is this year and that across the nonprofit sector, experience and turnover are challenges, nonprofits need to prepare. Your nonprofit likely should consider the following:

  • Continuing fundraising education for EDs – Despite his reputation for being an excellent orator, Bill Clinton is famous for rehearsing his speeches ad nauseam. Point being, even if your nonprofit’s leader is a rock star fundraiser, practicing and perfecting skills is never a bad idea. And it’s an even better idea if they are among the large percentage of EDs without previous fund development experience.
  • Documentation – A good idea for any and every department at your nonprofit, but especially important in areas notorious for high turnover like fund development. Be sure not only to document interactions with individual donors but standard operating procedures for the daily grind of fundraising.
  • Develop mid-level fundraisers – Your mid-level fundraisers will likely have to step up in the event that your development director is in the 50% who leaves in the next two years. Prepare them with solid training and growth opportunities so they are up to the task (and who knows, maybe one will become your next development director!).
  • Retain existing donors – With charitable giving not expected to grow, it is even more important to “dance with the one who brung you” so to speak. Ensure that you have solid strategies for retaining your donors and when possible converting one-time donors to sustaining donors. Also, look for opportunities, like volunteering, to help donors develop deeper connections to your nonprofit’s mission so eventual staff turnover has a smaller impact.

What preparatory actions would you add to this list?

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