Return on (fundraising) Talent

Acquisition, retention and upgrading. Who hasn’t heard of these terms? These are top priority within the policy of each fundraiser, and as fundraisers we know: costs precede profits. Even if the size of our budget poses a challenge, the programmes for acquisition, retention and upgrading are the programmes we wish to invest in. After all, we like to focus on gaining a maximum return from our donors. But what about the executors of our programmes? Are we focussing enough on gaining a maximum return from our fundraisers?

We often measure our own success and that of other organizations by their fundraising income. Who raises the most? Which organization has the fasted growing income? These are also the points on which we are valued in the rankings – for example, in this crowd blog.

Nevertheless, the driving force behind a successful fundraising programme is not so much the technique applied, but the fundraiser who puts this into practice. The talent of this fundraiser is thus of immeasurable value for the return of your programme. The question is therefore: to what extent do you make the development of this talent the main focus within your organization?

We all measure the Return on Investment of our fundraising programmes, but to what extent do we measure the Return on Talent of our fundraisers?

You might wonder why this is so important. Let me use the Netherlands as an example – at present we experience a large turnover of staff within fundraising organizations. Due to the considerable government spending cuts in our country, the market for fundraising organizations has grown at a fast rate and therefore also the demand for good fundraisers. Whenever a fundraiser feels underappreciated by his present employer, or doesn’t see any possibilities for professional growth, chances are high he’ll make the transfer to another organization. The sudden growth of fundraising organizations has not only meant the start of competition for our donations, but also for our fundraising talents. Yet, in relation to the investments in our fundraising programmes, the investments in training our fundraisers are scarce.

Therefore it is time for a well thought-out policy, and that doesn’t have to be terribly difficult. You can translate the priorities you use for your donor development programme, one-to-one, to the development of your fundraising team.

  1. Focus on acquisition. Ask yourself: how do I strengthen my team with the best fundraisers? How do I take on the competition with other non-profit organizations? And, even more challenging: how do I take on the competition with the for profit sector, where much higher salaries and interesting traineeships are offered?
  2. Focus on retention. Enter into dialogue with your fundraisers about their ambitions and, together, search for a suitable way of achieving this. Measure the satisfaction of your fundraisers and how long they remain in service on average. And, by the way, do you hold exit interviews to find out why people are leaving your organization?
  3. Focus on upgrading. Develop a programme in order to give a considerable impulse to the talent and knowledge of your fundraisers. Offer them sufficient new challenges in their work, as well as inspiration, and think about their possibilities for developing (within your organization, of course).

The talent of your fundraisers mainly determines the success of your organization. This is why you should invest in a Talent Development programme alongside your Donor Development programme. In other words: allow your Return on Investment to increase via your Return on Talent.

I would like to thank a very talented fundraiser who collaborated in writing this blog: Hans Broodman, interim manager fundraising at KWF Kankerbestrijding (Dutch cancer foundation). Thanks for the clear explanation of your vision on Return on Talent and for sharing your drawing skills 😉

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