4 Keys for Attracting, Hiring and Retaining a Successful Major Gift Team | npENGAGE

4 Keys for Attracting, Hiring and Retaining a Successful Major Gift Team

By on Dec 16, 2019


talent management, major gifts, hiring

One of the most important hires are those tasked to keep money flowing: the development team. Yet, the average length of employment for a development professional is 277 days. Half of chief development officers plan to quit within 2 years and 40% of the development directors said they were not committed to their jobs.

Looking for solutions to these dire numbers, CompassPoint embarked on Fundraising Bright Spots, a study of development teams that were happy and successful. They identified four themes that were common in development teams who not only stay in their positions but had high degrees of satisfaction and success.

4 Themes for Successful Development Teams

  1. Fundraising is core to the organization’s identity
  2. Fundraising is distributed broadly across staff, board, and volunteers
  3. Fundraising succeeds because of authentic relationships in every direction: with and among staff, board, volunteers and donors
  4. Fundraising is characterized by persistence, discipline, and intentionality

Read on for advice on incorporating each of these themes into your organization:


1. Fundraising is at the core of the organization’s identity

At the heart of the issue, then, is the healthcare system itself. Does your system place fundraising at the core of the organization’s identity? Most chief development officers work for the foundation and have little control over the system’s philosophy of philanthropy. So, before either recruiting or joining a development team, assess if there exists a palpable culture of philanthropy at the health system level. To keep it simple, this is your institution’s WHY. You don’t raise funds just to meet goals. You raise funds to transform treatments, strengthen community health, educate clinical staff and so much more. It’s for the WHY.

Learn the best ways to foster collaboration between philanthropy and healthcare executives.

When governing and foundation boards are involved in fundraising, that indicates there is a focus on philanthropy at the core of the institution. Are board members lead givers? Does the CEO speak frequently about the mission and vision of the institution? Does the development program have an adequate budget? Research by Change Develop Move on healthcare philanthropy tells us that the drivers of success depend on the involvement of the governing and foundation boards.


2. Fundraising responsibilities are distributed across staff, board and fundraising volunteers

Research and experience show that fundraising is most robust when development teams are steeped in best practices that support and move donors through the engagement process paired with board members and volunteers who have been generous. When board members and volunteers open doors with and for the development staff, you will see the greatest return.

For this to be easy for the volunteers, the staff must be prepared to support volunteer inclination with robust analytics to underpin and prioritize the personal engagement process.

Follow these steps to improve board engagement.


3. Fundraising succeeds because of authentic relationships in every direction: with and among staff, board, volunteers and donors

Authentic mutual respect among each of these entities is essential. CompassPoint and McKinsey & Company each mention in their various research on talent what new hires and loyal employees value. McKinsey Quarterly focuses on transparency, empathy, and meaning—timeless and increasingly timely— and that all are defining a new leadership benchmark. Take stock of the situation in your organization before hiring. Simply hiring staff does not guarantee success. Evaluate your organization with this worksheet. Have your current staff, board and key volunteers complete the questionnaire. Organize a retreat or longer board meeting focused on these important issues. Discuss how you can shore up areas that need it.


4. Fundraising is characterized by persistence, discipline, and intentionality

Gift officer departure or dissatisfaction is often tied to the persistence required to secure appointments with not only one donor but often 10 new ones per month. MGOs who develop a strategic and intentional work plan armed with meaningful cases for support are then successful in working those relationships with persistence and discipline. A good MGO knows how to schedule time to set appointments, prepare and review research, prep for visits, and follow up. Generally speaking, a minimum of 80 hours a month will be required just to make face-to-face visits. Success for a MGO usually results from making enough well-prepared calls on donors, inputting and tracking progress toward her goals, and measuring and benchmarking her successes With a prescriptive plan in place, a MGO knows how to be successful and reaching her goals.

Those hiring or managing major gift officers need to ask the questions of a potential hire to uncover the ideal person who will be excited about being highly intentional in the process. Find out if the person has the desire and discipline to manage their work so that if other success conditions are present, they can succeed through persistence and intentionality. When you are recruiting a MGO, be specific about the expectations.

To summarize, it is important that the institution’s governing and foundation boards are fully engaged in getting and giving philanthropy, the CEO drives the charitable message at every opportunity and that the development team is working with best practices every day.


June Bradham, CFRE, Blackbaud Healthcare Solutions, uses her experience as a thought leader to refine products and build bridges with healthcare leadership, physicians and development offices across the world. In addition, June is the President and founder of Corporate DevelopMint founded in 1987, an organizational development and fundraising consulting firm having served hundreds of clients since its founding. Under her leadership, Corporate DevelopMint has served over 200 non-profits across the US. International clients from Australia, Turkey, United Kingdom and Eastern Europe. She and the team she leads have directed campaigns of $2 million to over $1 billion. But more importantly, they have succeeded at organizational turnaround resulting in a shared view of philanthropy.

Recognized for her expertise in strategic planning, innovative fundraising and board dynamics, June is an internationally sought after speaker whose recent engagements have included plenary and keynote addresses at such prestigious conferences as AFP – International, AHP, CASE, CASE Europe and Blackbaud’s Conference for Nonprofits. In addition to the numerous articles in national publications she contributes to each year, June was the author of a monthly column for the Charleston Regional Business Journal and was named the Journal’s “Most Influential Woman CEO” and was their recent keynote speaker. June’s groundbreaking and insightful book on board dynamics, The Truth about What Nonprofit Boards Want: The Nine Little Things that Matter Most, was published by Wiley and is fast becoming one the industry’s most talked about books.

June and her team have worked with Higher Education, Independent Schools, Healthcare Systems and Community Organizations.

June’s deep commitment to the growth and success of non-profit organizations is underscored by her years of volunteer experience, including service to a number of healthcare and education boards, community organization boards like the Spoleto Festival and the Community Foundation as well as Chambers of Commerce and boards of industry associations. She is the past president of the board of the South Carolina Association of Nonprofit Organizations as well as AFP – International and the University of South Carolina’s Moore School of Business, a top ranked business school.  Her most recent interest in pro-bono work among professionals and companies is evidenced in being selected to join the International Board of CreateAthon™ known for serving nonprofits through pro bono professional work. She joins fellow board members from companies such as BMW, Hewlett Packard, Netscape and others showing her ability to stay in front of the curve of trends.

June holds a Bachelors degree from Columbia College and a CFRE and has completed the Harvard University Governance Education program in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Comments (2)

  • Jennifer says:

    June is fantastic and hits it right on the head here. In the process of leaving an organization and going to another because the culture doesn’t gravitate towards the 4 successful themes June refers to.

    Onward and upward friends and keep doing what you all do best!

  • Lisa Nault says:

    Very helpful and the author, June Bradham appears to have some serious credibility!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *