Navigating Turnover On Fundraising Teams How To Maintain Momentum Through Change
Fundraising Published Date, 2024

Navigating Turnover On Fundraising Teams: How To Maintain Momentum Through Change

Created By: Katy Beth Cassell
March 6, 2024

In nonprofit fundraising, staff turnover is a stark reality. On average, a fundraiser’s tenure lasts only 18 months. Alarmingly, more than half of fundraisers plan to leave their positions soon, a third of them exiting fundraising altogether. This trend underscores a clear message: change is inevitable.

Whether due to leadership changes or shifts within junior staff ranks, turnover can pose significant challenges to maintaining momentum in fundraising efforts. However, with strategic foresight and effective capacity-building measures, organizations can navigate these transitions smoothly, ensuring that their fundraising engine keeps running without missing a beat. Here’s how.

1. Institutionalize Knowledge.

One of the biggest risks of turnover is the loss of institutional knowledge. To mitigate this, organizations should prioritize creating robust documentation processes. This includes maintaining detailed records of fundraising strategies, donor engagement histories, past campaign analyses, and so on. Implementing a centralized database accessible to all team members ensures that valuable insights and relationships are preserved, regardless of personnel changes.

2. Foster a Culture of Continuous Learning.

Building a resilient fundraising team starts with fostering a culture that values continuous learning and professional development. Encourage staff at all levels to engage in ongoing training and development opportunities. This not only enhances their skills but also prepares the team to adapt more easily, including stepping into new roles or taking on additional responsibilities when colleagues depart.

3. Develop Leadership from Within.

Leadership transitions can be particularly jarring for fundraising teams. To ensure continuity, invest in leadership development programs that identify and nurture potential leaders from within your own ranks. By doing so, you create a pipeline of qualified candidates ready to step up when senior positions become vacant. This approach not only minimizes disruption but also contributes to a stronger sense of team cohesion and morale.

4. Engage in Strategic Succession Planning.

Succession planning should be a key component of your organization’s strategic planning process, not just a reaction to an impending departure. Proactively identify key positions and develop a clear plan for how these roles can be filled in the event of a turnover. This includes outlining necessary skills and qualifications for potential successors, as well as considering interim solutions that can keep your fundraising efforts on track during transitions.

5. Maintain Open Lines of Communication.

Transparency and communication are critical during times of change. Keep your team—and your donors!—informed about transitions and the steps being taken to manage them. This includes openly discussing the impact of turnover on current projects and how the organization plans to address potential challenges. Regular updates can help alleviate uncertainties and keep everyone focused on their collective goals.

6. Leverage External Expertise.

Sometimes, the best way to bridge gaps caused by turnover is to seek external expertise. Organizations like Orr Group specialize in providing interim support and strategic guidance during periods of transition. Whether it’s stepping in to manage day-to-day fundraising operations or assisting with the search for permanent staff, leveraging external resources can provide stability and continuity to your fundraising efforts.

7. Prioritize Donor Stewardship.

Finally, amidst the internal focus on managing turnover, it’s crucial not to lose sight of your donors. Ensure that donor stewardship remains a top priority, with clear plans in place for maintaining relationships and communications during staff transitions. This might include assigning interim donor liaisons or leveraging senior leadership to maintain key donor relationships, ensuring that your supporters remain engaged and informed.

Turnover on fundraising teams presents challenges, but with strategic planning and proactive capacity-building measures, it can also offer opportunities for growth and renewal.

As daunting as turnover may seem, it’s a chance to strengthen your team’s resilience, adaptability, and commitment to your organization’s mission. With the right approach, your fundraising team can emerge from periods of change more cohesive and capable than ever.

Orr Group can provide your organization with the support you need as embedded partners during times of transition. Get in touch today to understand how we can seamlessly integrate with your team to sustain and grow fundraising efforts.

Katy Beth Cassell is a Director at Orr Group. Katy Beth partners with Orr Group’s clients to create and implement efficient, capacity-building fundraising plans to meet goals. She brings expertise in developing strategies for the cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship of high-net-worth individual donors.

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