Reduce Staff Turnover and Improve Your Bottom Line

Tom%20Linfield.jpgBy Gary Klein - Edgewood College

Recently, I had the privilege of attending an annual Advancement Roundtable in the greater Atlanta area.  This conference of 25 chief development officers from across the country is a great forum for discussion and reflection on both the rewards and the concerns within our profession.

A recurring topic is the challenge of staff turnover.  This year it was the question that led the first breakout session.  A vice president, with genuine concern about turnover within advancement, asked for help.  We can all agree turnover is very time-consuming and costly for our nonprofits.  Years ago, I deliberately changed my approach to management and mentorship to try to slow this undesirable outcome of early departures.  The following are a few major shifts in thinking you may want to consider with regard to appreciation, communication and engagement of your team.

Treat Your Staff Like You Treat Your Benefactors:  Taking the time to say thank you to staff is one of the most cost-effective and impactful ways to ensure they know they are appreciated for their efforts.  Keep a handy list of “favorites” for each of your staff (items at the $1, $5 and $10 level and favorite restaurants and stores).  When you want to say thank you for a job well done or for going above and beyond, you know you can give them something they enjoy and truly appreciate.

Invest in Their Future Success:  Meet with each staff member to discuss his or her career path and future goals and then provide the tools and experiences necessary to take the next step.  In return, staff stay longer in their positions because they know they are supported and the institution is interested in their personal growth and success.

Make Internal Promotions a Priority:  Although salary is often the number one reason staff leave, with the youngest generation, upward mobility is a great concern.  Making it clear to staff that internal promotions are preferred encourages them to consider opportunities within their own organization.

Offer Career Advice:  It may seem odd to provide career advice as a tool for retention. However, over the years this conversation has kept many of my staff invested in their current positions.  Be a resource for opportunities and provide honest feedback on possible career moves.  Help them form a clear picture of where they would like their career to go.  This is extremely helpful in determining viability and fit while either continuing with you or in a new opportunity.  Then, when an opportunity is a good match and they choose to leave, the open conversation will have provided you with several months of notice rather than the prerequisite two weeks.

We are all blessed with the important work we are entrusted to do for our respective nonprofit organizations.  Building strong relationships internally is as important—if not more important—as the relationships we cultivate with our benefactors.  Through this engagement process, we will grow a stronger, more cohesive group of advancement professionals who will stay with our organizations.