Staff like donors? Recruit, develop, retain them…

101fundraising…OK, so back to the basics of fundraising, hey?!  Let me think, should I speak about ROI, LTV, DRTV, hum… yeah, why not! But something more “CORE”?

Found it! Let’s talk about PEOPLE.

I can see your face, but don’t worry, I won’t tell you for the 102nd time that “People give to people”. You know all about it yet. So, let’s have a look at us fundraisers, after all, we are people … and perhaps the best assets of a fundraising program (OK … just after donors).

So, my first post is dealing with what I spent more time on since I became a Fundraising Director some years ago: human resources! How to recruit, retain and develop the good fundraisers for your program. Because, let’s face it, you can be a real genius, but you need people for implementing the strategy you’ve designed for  your organization. The good news is that dealing with human resources can be compared with dealing with a direct marketing program: you need to recruit staff, engage them, develop their contribution, and get the best of them as long as you can retain them.

Here is some advice for medium sized NGOs in most of the countries where wages are lower than the UK or international markets. I hope that these tips will open a wide discussion and please, please give us your personal views and comments below this blog post.

1 – Are you prepared for that?

Struggling to convince your board, your CEO to get new staff on board? I bet you do. You need to be strategic about it and plan it seriously. What is the right timing (Budgeting period? After announcing good results?), your communication pack (Take time to get on board other managers? Prepare a brief? A business plan? Use some reminders?). Diplomacy could be useful too.

When getting the green light, how many of us have been struggling in recruiting the right person or the right team? If you didn’t get to that seniority, just think about yourself being recruited and, here you go, you have a lot to replicate. Some ways to get some help:

– Management studies are an asset.
– Specialized books found on Amazon or specific training.
– Getting advices from your experienced colleagues and friends.
– But, let’s face it, only experiencing it from the recruiter side, is the way to become good at it.

2 – How to recruit?

Forget that you will get the right people just by posting a traditional add on a traditional newspaper:

– Pair-up with someone from your HR team. Always run interviews together, HR people will validate some points we sometimes forget as fundraiser and also, he will be in charge to deal with salary and benefits negotiations. Also make sure to give a look to the add and  make it inspiring as you would do with a DM pack.
– Send the add to your network and do not hesitate to have a chat or a drink with someone that would like to work with you.
– If not existing, develop a scoring model taking into account the weight of each question. It will help you comparing the candidates and explain your choice if needed. Also, sleep on it first and don’t decide the same day you run the interview.
– Do not underestimate the time the whole process will take. Sometimes 3 to 5 months could be necessary.
– Take some time to call or write to short listed candidates that didn’t make it to the job, probably you will meet them again in your career.
-Everybody, I said everybody, finds our job sexy, but how many are really serious about doing it? Be careful with people saying they will move city for that job or leave their 6 digit current position. They are perhaps not saying the truth or could last very short in the new job.
– Even if not fitting a specific vacancy, good candidates could be good for the next one. Keep track of their applications and do not hesitate to forward them the new opportunity.

3 – How to retain?

Our industry just can’t help it, it loves the following word: “turnover”.

– Decide your style of management and stick to it. You don’t have to be a friend with the people that are working for you, but at the same time, is it fair to be a micro-manager?
– A lot depends if you can manage career evolution and decide on training packs. It is always important to have people realizing they are following a “path”. When they are not anymore, they will look for a new opportunity outside your organization right away.
– No staff should be unique, so look at your structure and plan who could become in charge in case of sudden resignation. Someone of the team should be able to step in rapidly. It probably will be you, so be prepared to dump some work that was planned.
– Can you include a minimum of 2 to 6 month notice in all contracts? If not, try to negotiate with them to stay until you find someone to replace them.

4 – How to develop?

It takes time and will to cultivate the working relationship with your staff, like with friends or family. So allocate time to it and do not think about it once a year only, for mandatory evaluations.
– Convince your organization to allocate a budget for training directly in your department budget, or at least under your guidance.
– Spend some time with each staff once a year thinking what training could be useful for them and insert it in their performance plan.
– Assign them a innovative project they will develop at their pace. This will challenge them and you’ll step in to validate the key decisions.
– Coach them (so many books about it) and share / validate your strategic decision with them. They will feel fully on board.
– Ask yourself if your staff are still motivated and inspired by the mission. If not, why don’t you  send them to the field?

5 – How to reactivate?

Don’t worry you usually don’t need to do this. This differs from your fundraising campaigns. But it doesn’t mean you should not keep in touch with former staff or colleagues. They are a good asset for benchmarking and here again you can develop your network.

I am sure all of you can add a lot of good tips to that post, so please do so! I just would like to conclude asking you the following: are you convinced that retaining staff can be very productive? That you won’t have to deal with long recruitment processes and you won’t have to postpone some activities after a strategic staff decides to leave? So perhaps it is time to convince our organizations that a clear retention staff strategy should be implemented. Do we realize the cost of losing a valuable strategic staff? Cause ROI is a great tool, but what about creating the LONI, “Loss On Non Investing” ratio? And what about the LONF ratio? “Loss On Non Firing”!

Other issues that I love to have your feedback on are:
– How can we attract people from the profit world?
– Where is the huge gap between wages in the UK and rest of Europe coming from?

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