I quit

A few days ago, an Executive Director friend of mine from Indiana emailed me a link to an article in Philanthropy Journal titled “Exodus of Executive Directors Expected“. I encourage everyone to read this article in full because it is deeply disturbing. It is also very telling about the state of the non-profit sector.

According to a survey cited in the article, 67-percent of respondents said they plan on resigning their executive director position in the next five years. While there are many reasons cited, I found it most interesting that many of the reasons deal with the board of directors. I suspect much of this originates from conflicts such as:

  • board members not engaging enough in fundraising and resource development
  • board volunteers having unrealistic expectations of staff
  • disagreements over how to address economy related issues (e.g. can we cut our way out of this budget hole versus let’s roll up our sleeves and do some fundraising)

We can go on and on with possible examples, but let’s stop here because all of this really isn’t the issue. There are two bigger problems

  1. Only 17-percent of organizations who participated in the survey have written succession plans.
  2. Fundraising is ALL about relationships and when human capital starts leaving your organization it can impact the relationships your organization has with volunteers and donors.

So, there are a few options I suggest you start considering:

  • Be proactive and ask your organization’s HR Committee (or set-up an ad hoc committee) to start working on written succession plan. Here is a link to some great resources published by The Foundation Center.
  • Roll up your sleeves and start doing the hard work associated with engaging and reinvigorating your board. I blogged about this a few weeks ago. Click here if you want to re-read the post I titled “Really? An Exhausted Board?”
  • Ask different board members and fundraising volunteers to engage in stewardship of your existing big donors. When your most important donors have multiple relationships with board and staff, they are less likely to be upset when their one and only connection to your organization quits.

While it is almost impossible to prepare for someone’s resignation, there are things you can do to get your organization in the best possible position to deal with it when it arrives. And keep your fingers crossed that it doesn’t come in the form of a YouTube video like this one “The BEST EVER way to quit a job!! HOAX“.

Do you sense frustration out there among non-profit staff? Do you agree with the Philanthropy Journal article? Do you think there are ways to avoid the exodus or best prepare for a scenario like this? Please use the comment box below and share your thoughts. We can all learn from each other.

Here is to your health!

Erik Anderson
Owner, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC

Hiring a fundraising professional

Yesterday, we talked about the qualities and traits you should look for when hiring a “donor-centered” resource development professional. We ended up with some great comments and discussion. So, I decided to continue down this path a little farther today.

I oftentimes get asked the following two questions by small to mid-size non-profit organizations when it comes to hiring a RD professional:

  • When should we hire our first RD professional?
  • How much should we expect them to raise?

I believe an organization should consider hiring its first fundraising pro when it reaches a point when it feels like it needs more help to go to the next level. So, if a small organization is using committed board volunteers and an executive director to go from Point A to Point B in its resource development program, then it is a natural question during the annual evaluation process to ask once they get to Point B — “Do we need help getting to Point C or can we do it by ourselves?”

Evaluation is key to getting perspective and thinking through the question of when to hire your first RD professional. I also think Tony Poderis does a masterful job addressing this issue. Click here to read his article on this subject.

It is easier for me to definitively say that the following examples are times when an organization should NOT hire a RD professional:

  • When the board is tired of fundraising and wants to hire someone to do it for them
  • When the executive director of the organization is deemed to be inadequate at fundraising
  • When the organization doesn’t know in what direction it wants to go with its comprehensive resource development program.

As for ROI, I have heard lots of different opinions on this subject ranging anywhere FROM “one-times/two-times/three-times the RD professional’s salary” TO “you cannot measure it by dollars & cents because a good RD person makes board volunteers better fundraisers which leads to increased donor engagement”. I thought The Foundation Center did a nice job answering this question in their blog post.

When do you think an organization should hire its first fundraising professional or add more development people to the department? And do you have any suggestions on how to measure ROI? Please jump in and share your thoughts!

Here is to your health!

Erik Anderson
Owner, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC

Searching for a donor-centered fundraiser

As I said on Friday, I am currently reading the book Co-Active Coaching as part of a business coaching certificate program. While digesting this text, it caused me to reflect back on Penelope Burk’s book, Donor Centered Fundraising. I think this is happening in part because when I read Penelope Burk’s book, I kept asking myself questions like “what would that look like in practice?” and “what skill sets would a donor-centered resource development professional need to possess?”.

I think some of the coaching material I’m currently reading fills in some of those blanks in my head, and I want to share those thoughts with you here today.

Chapter 5 in Co-Active Coaching talks about how one quality of a successful coach is “curiosity” and one skill set required to be curious is being able to ask powerful questions and dumb questions (which can also be quite powerful).  On page 79, the authors list a few example questions:

  • What does what you want look (or feel) like?
  • What about that is important to you?
  • What else?
  • What will you do and when will you do it?

I now see the importance of limiting the number of “Yes-No” and “Why” questions because these questions can be intimidating and limit discussion. Likewise, I found myself thinking that open ended and naturally curious questions help deepen understandings and in turn deepen relationships.

If I was an executive director again and looking to hire a development professional with donor-centered fundraising skills sets, I suspect I would build a search process around finding someone with the following qualities:

  • listening skills
  • curiosity & engagement
  • action-oriented
  • life-long learner
  • authenticity
  • the ability to create accountability
  • connectivity & relationship building

Have you ever hired a donor-centered fundraising professional? If so, what qualities, characteristics, competencies and skill sets did they possess? What were some of the questions you used to tease these qualities out of your candidate pool? Please jump in and share.

Here is to your health!

Erik Anderson
Owner, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC