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Avoiding the Great Resignation in Development

The moniker is dramatic. The concern is real. And despite how integral they are to our organizations; development departments are not immune.


Staffing development departments has always proven challenging, however. Why? Because many board members (and even the occasional executive leader) think the Development Officer's job is to be a walking rolodex of wealth. Many organizations expect the bulk of contacts and opportunities for funding to be the sole responsibility of the fundraiser, which nearly always proves unrealistic.

The actual job of the Development Officer is to identify and seize opportunities presented to them through relationship-building and effectively communicating a mission. They have a limited number of personal contacts for whom the organization’s mission will resonate, which is why the antidote to the Great Resignation in development likely resides in a Culture of Philanthropy.

Regarding a Culture of Philanthropy, Nonprofit Quarterly says, “Everyone in the organization, from the janitor to the chair of the board, understands that philanthropy and fund development are critical to organizational health and that each individual (both the janitor and board chair) has a role in the process. First and foremost, everyone is an ambassador for the organization’s service, and for philanthropy and fund development.” It is worth noting that many articles on a Culture of Philanthropy also describe being donor-centric which has been called out as problematic by many examining DEI practices in fundraising, and there is a compelling fundraising model worth exploring called Community Centric Fundraising. While donor-centricity certainly needs to be rethought in our organizational structures, the benefits of encouraging, enabling, and expecting ambassadorship among the staff and board remain constant, both in support of development department leadership, and for the good of the organization as a whole.

To instill philanthropy into your culture, make sure staff and board aware of how meaningful participation is, celebrate the successful connections they make, and ensure that they know their own valuable place in serving the organization. Train everyone to talk about the organization with regular, compelling, and meaningful talking points; give them unfettered access to witness programming; and invite them to cultivation events so they may put it into action. Then, include the role of ambassadorship into recruiting materials, check in on their progress as an ambassador and provide redirection and assistance as appropriate, and hold them accountable to it.

Your development officer does not sign the checks they bring into the organization. They need to work slowly, thoughtfully, and persistently to raise those dollars; which is stress-inducing, challenging, and labor-intensive. Support them in the process through organization-wide ambassadorship and you just may be able to keep them!

Would insight, planning, or training on creating a Culture of Philanthropy help you? Join us for an online workshop on this topic July 19th or contact us to discuss how we can specifically help your organization.


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