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
- Fundraising is core to the organization’s identity
- Fundraising is distributed broadly across staff, board, and volunteers
- Fundraising succeeds because of authentic relationships in every direction: with and among staff, board, volunteers and donors
- 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.
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.
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.