Hiring and Retaining Development Staff : Successful Nonprofits

Hiring and Retaining Development Staff

by Ro

Hiring and Retaining Development Staff

by Ro

by Ro

The success of any nonprofit organization relies heavily on the effectiveness and dedication of its development staff.

These individuals work tirelessly to secure funding, cultivate relationships with donors, and ensure the financial sustainability of the organization. Executive Directors and HR Consultants with expertise in nonprofit management have seen firsthand the impact that hiring and retaining top-notch development staff can have on an organization’s ability to fulfill its mission.

Key factors that contribute to the successful hiring and retention of development staff include organizational culture, empowering employees, streamlined processes, professional development, strategic planning, and board engagement. By implementing these strategies, nonprofit organizations can create an environment that attracts and retains talented development professionals, maximizing their fundraising potential and furthering their mission.

Attracting Top Development Talent

Before beginning the recruitment process, identify the needs of your organization based on its strategic plan and current and future goals. Understand how the organization wants to develop its funding sources, acknowledge the current capabilities and any potential gaps, and recognize what specific expertise is required.

With these insights, you can better define the role you’re hiring for and begin finding the right development employees to join your nonprofit organization. To attract the best candidates, it’s essential to create a well-crafted internal job description and externally focused job posting, highlight the unique benefits of working for your organization, and utilize effective recruitment strategies.

To successfully hire development employees:

        • Develop a clear and detailed job description that outlines the essential duties, responsibilities, qualifications, and expectations of the role.
        • In the job posting, emphasize the unique aspects of your organization, such as its mission, impact, and workplace culture. This will attract candidates who share your values and are passionate about your cause.
        • Include information about the benefits and opportunities for growth within the organization, as well as professional development resources available to employees.

Where to Find Your Next Development Pro

Finding the right development professionals for your nonprofit is often very challenging, but there are numerous resources available to help you identify and connect with a pool of diverse and qualified candidates. Here are some key job boards and platforms to help source development employees:

        • Idealist:  Idealist is a popular job board for nonprofit and social impact positions, including development roles. The site also offers resources for job seekers and organizations, such as career advice, networking events, and volunteer opportunities.
        • The Chronicle of Philanthropy: The Chronicle of Philanthropy is a leading news source for the nonprofit sector and offers a job board featuring positions in fundraising, development, and other nonprofit roles.
        • The NonProfit Times: The NonProfit Times is a news and information source for nonprofit professionals that features a job board with development, fundraising, and other nonprofit positions.
        • Council on Foundations [https://cof.org/page/philanthropic-career-center]: The Council on Foundations is an organization supporting philanthropy and grant-making institutions. Their job board includes development and fundraising positions within foundations and nonprofit organizations.
        • LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a professional networking platform that allows job seekers and employers to connect. By searching for development roles within the nonprofit sector and utilizing filters such as location, experience level, and job function, you can identify potential candidates for your organization.

In addition to these job boards, consider reaching out to local colleges and universities, professional associations, and nonprofit networks to share your job postings and expand your pool of potential candidates. Networking events, industry conferences, and seminars can also provide valuable opportunities to meet and connect with development professionals who may be interested in joining your organization.

Build a Positive Organizational Culture

A strong organizational culture is the foundation for hiring and retaining development staff in any nonprofit.  Foster an environment that values collaboration, open communication, and a shared commitment to the organization’s mission and goals. By doing so, you create a workplace where employees feel supported, appreciated, and motivated to contribute their best work.

To create a strong organizational culture, consider the following:

        • Clearly communicate the organization’s mission, vision, and values to all employees.
        • Encourage open dialogue and collaboration between departments and teams.
        • Recognize and celebrate the achievements and successes of your development staff.
        • Offer flexible work arrangements and prioritize work-life balance.

Boost Employee Satisfaction through Empowerment

Empowerment is a critical component of employee retention, particularly for development staff who often face high-pressure situations and tight deadlines. By empowering your employees, you provide them with the tools and autonomy they need to make decisions, take ownership of their work, and ultimately feel more satisfied in their roles.

To empower your development staff:

        • Delegate decision-making authority and trust them to make informed choices.
        • Provide opportunities for employees to take on new responsibilities and grow within their roles.
        • Encourage innovation and creative problem-solving.
        • Provide regular feedback and constructive criticism to help employees improve their performance.

Enhance Productivity with Streamlined Processes

Efficient and streamlined processes can greatly enhance the productivity and job satisfaction of development staff. By simplifying workflows, eliminating redundancies, and implementing time-saving technology, you enable your employees to focus on what they do best: raising funds and building relationships with donors.

To streamline processes in your organization:

        • Evaluate your current workflows and identify areas for improvement.
        • Automate repetitive tasks using technology and software solutions.
        • Create clear guidelines and documentation to help employees understand and navigate internal processes.
        • Encourage cross-departmental collaboration to identify and address inefficiencies.

Invest in Your Development Staff’s Growth

Investing in the professional development of your development staff not only enhances their skills and knowledge but also demonstrates your organization’s commitment to their growth and success. By offering ongoing training, educational opportunities, and resources, you can help your employees advance in their careers and feel more engaged with your organization.

To support the professional development of your development staff:

  • Offer in-house training sessions and workshops on relevant topics such as grant writing, donor relations, and fundraising strategies.
  • Provide access to conferences, seminars, and networking events.
  • Encourage employees to pursue certifications or advanced degrees in their field.
  • Create a mentorship program to connect less experienced staff with seasoned professionals.

Engage Development Staff in Strategic Planning

Involving development staff in strategic planning processes helps to align their work with the organization’s long-term goals and vision. This not only improves their job satisfaction but also enables them to better understand their role in driving the organization’s success.

To integrate development staff into strategic planning:

  • Involve development employees in setting fundraising goals and developing strategies to achieve them.
  • Create a culture that encourages collaboration between development, marketing and communications, events, and programming to execute on the strategic plan and the funding goals of the organization. 
  • Create a shared fundraising calendar to ensure that all team members are aware of upcoming campaigns, events, and deadlines.
  • Schedule regular check-ins and progress meetings to discuss achievements, challenges, and any necessary adjustments to the strategic plan.

Strengthen Board-Development Staff Collaboration

A strong partnership between the development staff and the organization’s board of directors is crucial for fundraising success. Board members can serve as powerful advocates and connectors, helping to expand the organization’s donor base and increase its visibility in the community. To foster this collaboration, it’s essential to and ensure they understand their role in supporting the organization’s fundraising efforts.

To enhance board engagement with development staff:

        • Provide board members with regular updates on fundraising progress, challenges, and successes.
        • Offer training and resources to help board members become effective fundraisers and ambassadors for the organization.
        • Include development staff in board meetings and discussions to promote collaboration and information sharing.
        • Encourage board members to participate in fundraising events, donor meetings, and other development activities.

Attracting and retaining talented development staff is critical for the long-term success of any nonprofit organization. By cultivating a strong organizational culture, empowering employees, streamlining processes, investing in professional development, involving staff in strategic planning, and fostering board engagement, you can create an environment where development professionals thrive and are motivated to contribute their best work.

Implementing these strategies will not only help organizations secure the funding they need to fulfill their missions, but also ensure that development staff feel valued, engaged, and committed to the organization’s success. A comprehensive assessment or audit from an HR Consulting firm can prove invaluable for many organizations looking to identify and focus on areas where improvement in hiring and retention practices is needed. Drawing from the experiences of Executive Directors and HR firms specializing in nonprofit management, the impact of a strong, dedicated and supported development team is key to enabling organizations to make a lasting difference in the world. By prioritizing the hiring and retention of skilled development staff and creating a supportive work environment, nonprofits can unlock their full potential and maximize their impact on the communities they serve.

About the Author

Conor Hughes is a certified consultant (SHRM-CP), board member, and marketer with a passion for project management, strategy creation, and driving organizational growth. He’s dedicated to building trust, fostering relationships, and guiding change using technology. As the Social Media and Marketing Chair of the Westchester Human Resource Management Association, he enhances collaboration among HR professionals. Conor excels in communication, team strengthening, and leveraging technology for mission-driven impact. Outside work, he’s an avid traveler, photographer, poet, and painter. Based in Denver, Colorado, he’s now exploring the Rocky Mountains while cherishing his Hudson Valley roots

Additionally, check out the following Successful Nonprofits® resources if this post was helpful:

Blog: An Empty Seat is Better than a Bad Hire 

Blog: Build the Board You Need with a Board Matrix! 

Podcast: Mind Shifts to Transform your Hiring Process 

Podcast: Maximize Your Employee Engagement and Retention with Rob Woronoff

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