Updated: Nov 29
If you know me, I tend to be a bit enthusiastic.
Or, as my sister once told a boss of mine, Sharon doesn’t do anything unless she is All-IN.
And for that reason, I start every new job with that special glimmer in my eye. You can feel the excitement and sense of hope coming from every pore in my body the day I see a desk with shiny new business cards.
That unmistakable twinkle was almost blinding the day I started my first job at a nonprofit. I thought I could change the world. I finally could take all my talent and skills and put them to good use.
Then came onboarding-
Hi Sharon, here is your key, health insurance, and your corporate credit card paperwork. I assume you have found the bathroom.
Then came the abbreviations-
If you review the ABC you will understand why we do the QRX, and never forget you need a valid driver’s license to operate the ERV.
Then came the donors and board members sharing everything BAD that had happened to the individuals that held the job before me.
Then came the branding rules and the galas. It was all washed over me like the waves at the beach.
All of this, and I had two awesome bosses who would answer any question I had. The problem was, who even knew what the questions were!?!
My next job was even more curious as on my first day, my boss (who had hired me) was not even there…wait, she was not there the entire first week.
Onboarding included nothing about the mission (which was amazing), no outline of how our support came, no sitting with long-standing employees to see how they told the story… but, I did hear that you were not allowed to drink coffee at our desk (deal killer for me).
For most, including me, the stress of working as a fundraiser starts soon after I walk in the door.
And, let me be clear- I had days (and weeks and months) at both these jobs where I thought I had found my life’s purpose. But, eventually, both situations took the glimmer from my eye, and I left…not mad…but very very sad.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy completed a survey (2019/pre-pandemic) of 1,035 fundraisers in the United States and Canada, conducted by Harris Insights & Analytics, through the Harris Poll, for the Chronicle and the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
The headline is shocking (or not shocking at all)
51% of Fundraisers Plan to Leave Their Jobs by 2021
According to a new Chronicle of Philanthropy survey, too much pressure to meet unrealistic fundraising goals, coupled with too little pay and frustrating organizational cultures, is driving away fundraisers.
So, TODAY, what can you do to stop this revolving door that ultimately costs your nonprofit money, credibility, and time?
The survey pointed out that fundraisers feel including;
Too Much Pressure, Too Little Appreciation
Say thank you often but be specific.
I once read a parenting article that talked about how to compliment small children. It said you must be specific in your praise for it to be felt authentically. Don’t say… excellent proposal…say what a fantastic way you painted the picture of the way their donation will feed 100 preschoolers.
Celebrate small successes
I would never say that managing salespeople or fundraisers is easy. Sometimes the highest performers need the most attention. Just getting a meeting that they have tried for a long time is worth getting a high five. And never make them look for acknowledgment or feel needy for wanting it. Remember, if you can’t pay them what you think they are worth, you can undoubtedly make them feel appreciated…it’s free.
Share the process
I have always said former managers make for great employees…why? Because they understand the reason for the pressure, where it is coming from, and the end game. While I am not saying you need to share EVERYTHING…sometimes it is vital to share context so that your teams understand why and what they are working for.
Find them doing something right.
Even the newest employee does some things correctly. It is much easier to tell them what they are doing well before telling them what they need to improve.
Be on their side.
This may sound like advice for a kindergarten teacher; however, every employee wants to know their boss is vested in their success.
Other points in the finding included;
Hiring and Leadership Development
While these are separate issues in the findings, I believe they are very connected.
During my eight years running the national sales for 50 Radio Disney stations, I worked for the most amazing man. His name was Drew Rashbaum. He taught me many lessons, but my favorite was a lesson about hiring.
You see, Drew was smart and funny and occasionally a bit grumpy. And when he interviewed folks, he displayed all of these characteristics. He would share all the fun that came with working for the Mouse, and he would also, clearly and loudly, share the horror of selling commercials on AM radio stations with no ratings and small signals.
There was no doubt you knew what you were getting into. You also got a sense of what kind of manager you would be working for. He would be grumpy and funny and always tell you the truth of the situation.
Do you share what life looks like at your nonprofit with new hires?
Do you share the reality of potential stress, long hours, et al.?
As for my personality, if you worked with me…you know I am funny, intelligent, and occasionally grumpy. I also am a diehard advocate for my people and will never ask someone to do something I would not do myself. I am coachable, and you have to be too.
Would you be happy working with me? Not everyone is…but, during your interview, I will ask questions and share stories that let the candidate know who I am and find out if we are a good match.
OK, my pet peeve in management has always been leadership jumping on new hires when they have made a mistake.
Have you shown them how to do it the right way??
To quote Michael Nilsen, Vice President for Communications and Public Policy at the Association for Fundraising Professionals...“I don’t just have to steward my donors. I’ve got to steward my staff.”
Be the teacher, the coach, or hire someone (Team Kat & Mouse Nonprofit Consultants) who can be.
Grow a fierce fundraising team with experts in all areas of fundraising and then teach them to help each other.
Then, keep the training going, knowing that tomorrow’s leaders are probably in the room today.
If you read our Team Kat & Mouse blogs, you probably noticed this is a long one.
That is because the findings of this survey represent the “why” we started Team Kat & Mouse. To be nonprofit consultants that help you train teach and coach. Not to mention getting your board all on the same page through Board and Leadership training for your nonprofit.
I am genuinely ALL-IN on these issues, and every time we change outcomes for nonprofits and help them raise the level of skill and commitment of their teams, the glimmer in my eyes is brighter than ever.
Want to chat some more...email me today at Sharon@TeamKatandmouse.com
A bit about Drew Rashbaum
Sadly, we lost Drew (in red, below) on August 5th, 2008. He was only 52. He suffered an Aortic Dissection, the same thing that took the life of John Ritter.
To learn more about Aortic Health, go to https://www.johnritterfoundation.org.