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Effective Ways to Retain and Motivate Your Top Fundraisers

Jacqueline Walsh
Published:  10/24/2018

Top fundraisers handshakeAdapted from a 2018 AHP Webinar Series event presented by William J. Mountcastle, President and Principal Consultant, Health Giving

Within the realm of fundraising, a dichotomy exists regarding retention. Although it seems contradictory, retention IS about money, but it is also NOT about money. In order to effectively retain and encourage top fundraisers, it is essential to understand the elements of retention and its effect on finances.  

Fundraisers need to look at retention from a perspective that emphasizes the importance of money. This involves understanding turnover is worrisome and it is important to be aware of its financial impact. The Advisory Board Company has estimated the direct cost of finding a replacement fundraiser at $66,500. Advisory Board also estimates that $2.7 million in estimated philanthropic revenue is put at risk when one high-performing major gift officer departs. Turnover often halts the development of relationships with external audiences, productivity is lost during training periods and there is a loss of momentum while the position is vacant.

Turnover is also regarded as negative in the eyes of philanthropic investors, clinicians and program leaders. Relationship trust is priceless, and when someone leaves your organization, it takes additional time to build a sense of trust with a philanthropic investor. In this time, you risk delaying and perhaps even ending the opportunity to close a major gift.

Retention should also not be about money. Optimal motivation of high performers occurs because of trustworthy leadership, plentiful career advancement opportunities and a clear emphasis on the importance of employee happiness.

Studies show top performing fundraisers value:

  • Learning and engagement
  • Clear path of progression
  • Recognition
  • Autonomy and responsibility
  • Positive work environment
  • Mission inspiration
  • Sense of belonging
  • Team comradery

With the dichotomy of retention in mind, it is essential to take actions to retain and motivate top fundraisers.

  1. Set clear expectations: Hold major gift officers accountable and align goals with the entire organization.
  2. Praise publicly: Provide genuine gratitude and encouragement, but correct privately.
  3. Create career growth experiences: Demonstrate interest in major gift officers’ long-term development.
  4. Provide proper training: Determine what training is appropriate and how to make it effective.
  5. Offer work-life balance: Implement reduced or flexible work schedules.
  6. Develop support systems: Review processes to reduce re-work or administrative work.
  7. Allow your major gift officers to function independently: Know that your major gift officers enjoy being able to think on their own and have freedom to take whichever actions they feel are best.
  8. Fight boredom and tedium: Create a fun, enthusiastic workplace environment.
  9. Develop donor-centered culture: Encourage everyone in your organization to be involved in the fundraising process.
  10. Reward great work!

Other recommendations include being passionate about the goals of the organization, connecting with your major gift officers by showing real interest in them and making sure inspiration moments are succeeded by follow-up action.

To learn more about retaining and motivating your top fundraisers, watch the webinar here.

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Meet The Author

AHP logo
Jacqueline Walsh
Communications Team
Association for Healthcare Philanthropy

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