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Retention Strategies for Combating Nonprofit Turnover

Research tells us that most nonprofit fundraisers leave after 16-18 months. Penelope Burk of Cygnus Applied Research, Inc. found that it costs nonprofits $127,650 every time a fundraiser needs to be replaced. Here are some retention and succession planning strategies for combating nonprofit turnover.

Nonprofit Retention Strategies

In 2019, 1000 nonprofit workers were questioned for a study done by Bloomerang and Mazarine Treyz of Wild Woman Fundraising. From the results of that study, we compiled a few basic strategies to help nonprofits retain more employees and volunteers.

1. Acknowledge That There is Life Outside of Work

The top two employee benefits that workers said were most important to them were paid time off and paid family leave. Coming in fifth was paid sick days. That means 3 out of 5 of the top benefits revolved around employees having time off from work. So, if your nonprofit wants to retain more employees and fundraisers, be sure to acknowledge that there is life outside of work, and provide a good work/life balance by providing plenty of paid time off.

2. Provide Fair Pay

The remaining 2 of the top 5 employee benefits were (unsurprisingly) an appropriate salary and being paid overtime.
You should evaluate your pay grades annually to compare your salaries to those offered at similar nonprofits. Also, consider annual raises to match the cost of living increases.

Offering competitive compensation can be a challenge for nonprofits, especially for smaller organizations on tight budgets. If this is the case, consider offering other benefits like flexible work hours. A study by Global Workplace Analytics found that over 35% of employees would choose flexible work hours over a pay raise and almost 10% were willing take a pay cut to get that flexibility.

3. Offer a Supportive Work Environment

When asked what was important in terms of workplace qualities, among the top ten requests were a flexible work schedule, paid continuing education, supportive supervisor and board, top quality tools and software, and on-site childcare.
Consider these things when thinking about ways to improve the workplace to retain employees at your nonprofit.

4. Offer Training and Development Opportunities

According to Penelope Burk, one of the top 3 reasons nonprofit professionals leave is lack of opportunity for advancement. Unfortunately, in many organizations, there are just one or two people making all the decisions, but a much larger number of staff on the front lines. Fundraisers quickly conclude that there isn’t any opportunity to build their careers, so they move on. According to her research: “37% of respondents left their last job for a more senior position; 23% left to work in a Development operation where they would learn a new skill.”

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