Fundraisers, and more broadly nonprofit employees, have felt burnt out since before the pandemic. Back in 2019, a whopping 51% of fundraisers planned to leave their jobs. Enter the pandemic, disrupting how people work on a fundamental level and an economic recovery that has empowered workers to take more control over their careers. In June of 2021 alone, nearly 4 million people quit their jobs.
But there is no sense in getting hung up on the past. Nonprofit leaders don't spend their days lamenting the economy. Instead, they are forward thinkers tasked with finding solutions to the problems getting in the way of hitting goals. So while historical data can help inform action, the better use of time would be to analyze what direction you can move from here based on what you can control.
Take, for example, the historical trend in fundraising to ask gift officers to "do more with less." It may come off as being overly cliché, but not for lack of truth. Fundraiser turnover leaves a segment of donors either left in the cold or given to another gift officer already managing a portfolio. The result is potentially millions of dollars left on the table because of a lack of fundraiser capacity to personally connect with each donor. Employee turnover resulting in lost revenue was an issue before the pandemic and has only risen due to the Great Resignation.
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According to Allison Quintanilla Plattsmier, executive director of Edgehill Neighborhood Partnership: "Fundraisers often find themselves doing the work of two or even three people as they get more skilled at their job...this is why fundraisers get burnt out so easily." Because one person is doing the work of two or three, creating efficiencies becomes vital for two reasons. First, overwhelming your remaining gift officers will only lead to more turnover and not solve the problem at hand. Second, regardless of how talented a fundraiser is, there is still a limit to the number of hours in a day, and the number of relationships a human alone can manage.
So, let's examine what steps we can take to address the things we can control. Your fundraisers are doing the work of staff you don't have. Where the old solution may point to hiring more fundraisers, today's economy makes that a challenge in itself. Before taking a new job, employees want to feel like their employers support them personally and professionally. What you do control is how you are supporting current gift officers. If you are asking your fundraisers to do the work of three people or more, would you not want to empower them to succeed in that challenge?
You control the ability to enable your fundraisers so that having portfolios 2-3x bigger doesn't seem impossible. Provide a path for your gift officers to achieve results they did not think were possible given the workload, and you will reap the benefits of higher employee retention. Successful fundraisers are happy fundraisers, and happy fundraisers will remain with your organization for years, developing deeper relationships that ultimately drive giving.
If you are asking your fundraisers to do the work of three people or more, would you not want to empower them to succeed in that challenge?
Tools like AI are proven to increase the capacity of fundraising teams by as much as 4x. You could think of AI as a "virtual assistant" that handles the tedious office work that gets in the way of connecting with donors. However, leveraging technology to support your fundraisers is much more than that.
As I mentioned, you can't control the job market. But supporting your gift officers creates a positive work environment that will entice those looking for fundraising roles. A big part of your ability to hire new fundraisers lies in telling prospective employees you care about them - and backing it up. Imagine telling a job applicant that they would be walking into an office full of fundraisers happy to come to work because they enjoy doing their jobs.
For some nonprofits, this can all sound like a pipe dream. But tools like Gravyty are being used to give fundraisers more time back into their day and focus on creating outcomes that were not possible before artificial intelligence. Most importantly, according to Ashley Keeton of Living On The Edge: "Gravyty made my job a whole lot more fun."
Want to see what kinds of efficiencies AI can create for your organization? See a Gravyty demo today to learn what is possible in fundraising: