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How to Build a Successful Culture for Gift Officers

Samantha Hunter
Published:  08/16/2021

Work team meeting in a conference room
Photo by Mapbox on Unsplash

Across all industries, this summer has been called the “Summer of Resignations.” During the pandemic, many people were too afraid to leave jobs because they needed stability. Now that the economy is slowly recovering, people are considering their options. With a record number of people either quitting their jobs, or considering quitting their jobs, employers are rightfully focusing on staff retention. 

The average tenure of a gift officer is about two and a half years. If you lose a gift officer, it can take anywhere from four to six months to secure a replacement. Then there is training that needs to happen as well as introductions to the donors and the organization. All of this means focusing on building a successful culture and retaining your current employees is more top of mind than ever. 

So, where do you start? 

Align gift officer goals to organizational goals 

To set gift officers up for success, you have to make sure that their goals are aligned with the organizational goals. Alignment will help ensure that officers are really invested in not only setting themselves up for success, but also the organization as a whole.  

Maybe you’re looking to have officers raise more money than the year prior, or you’re focused on cultivating new major donors. Maybe you already have a good number of proposals in, but you want to focus on growing the size of them. Whatever the organizational goal is, you want to think through how to tie those to targeted outcomes for gift officers. 

If a gift officer, or any employee for that matter, can’t draw that dotted line from the work they do, to the organization as a whole, they won’t feel tied to the culture or the mission.  

Have the right process and technology in place 

While there are a good number of people returning to the office, there will likely be many people who stay remote for the foreseeable future. Particularly in a remote world, both technology and a well-defined process are crucial for success. You have to have processes in place that will enable success. So make sure that you have good documentation and parameters in place for gift officers to follow. 

In a previous post, I discussed the importance of taking a data-driven approach to gift officer management. In it, I outline KPIs to consider and how to set specific and measurable goals for your gift officers that will motivate them and support your fundraising team's bottom line. 

Having the right technology in place will help facilitate and support the processes you set up. With more people working remotely than ever before, gift officers are relying on technology to do their best fundraising work. That includes basic things like laptops, second monitors, and phone equipment, but it also can mean investing in software that supports the work they need to do.

Invest in Your Team

It’s important to remember that change is inevitable so some turnover is unavoidable. To retain and attract top performers, you have to take the time to continually invest in your teams. Provide ongoing training as well as good resources like continued educational opportunities to make sure they are well-prepared to do quality fundraising. Continued coaching and accountability beyond the first month or year, will encourage gift officers to keep growing and will help avoid complacency that happens when someones been in one role for a long period of time. 

Seek out candidates that will lift the entire organization up and that might not necessarily look like the staff you currently have in place. You want to shake things up and bring in new ideas. This will bring a fresh perspective to your organization and also encourage the existing team members to think outside the box and try something new. 

Don’t be afraid to look outside of the healthcare philanthropy industry. A lot of times it can feel like a good candidate has to have gift officer experience, but someone with a sales background can also bring a good skill set to the role. They could potentially bring best practices that work in another industry to the fundraising team that you might have missed out on otherwise. 

It’s important to remember that most people get into the healthcare philanthropy field because they enjoy what they do and they want to make a difference. If you want to learn more about building a positive culture for gift officers, check out this webinar. 

NEWS  /10/24/18
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.
NEWS  /07/20/21
Here are some ideas to bring a fresh data-driven perspective to your gift officers.
NEWS  /07/30/21
With 88% of total donations coming from 12% of donors, engaging with major donors effectively is critical. Learn how to refresh your current major gift program.

Meet The Author

Sam Hunter headshot
Samantha Hunter
Association for Healthcare Philanthropy

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