How to Respond to Giving Declines & Nonprofit Staff Turnover

Worried about hiring and staff retention? 

Concern: Nonprofit staff turnover is an expensive problem, with some research estimating that fundraisers stay in their roles for only 16-18 months on average.

Nonprofit employees who leave their current positions for roles elsewhere are citing salary competition, stress, and burnout as their top reasons for seeking other opportunities. These are wicked, sector-wide problems that obviously can’t be solved in a blog post. The bottom line is, when it comes to things like the ability to provide for one’s family and live a fulfilling life, if your team isn’t finding it with you, they will certainly seek it out elsewhere. 

Alternate angle: When staff members leave, they provide valuable data about what’s missing in their work life, so what might happen if you survey your team before they leave?

Exit interviews with departing employees often provide excellent feedback for improvements for future staff. This is frequently because the departing employee feels safe to express themselves honestly and completely, since there won’t be any risk of retaliation or punishment from a job they’re leaving. 

It takes patience, honesty, active listening, and an open mind, but in addition to exit interviews, you could try introducing “entry” and “stay” interviews to boost staff retention. According to organizational psychologist Adam Grant, “I’m a big fan of exit interviews–there’s just one little issue. It is the dumbest time to run them. Why would you wait until people have already committed to walk out the door to say, if only I had a time machine, I would go back to the past and convince you to stay?”

In an “entry” interview, you can try learning about your new team members by asking what they did and didn’t like about previous employers, what kinds of perks or opportunities they hope to see in their future with your nonprofit, and what they hope to achieve with you. In a “stay” interview, take the time to really check in with your current team members to see what their challenges and joys are, and what it takes to keep them on your squad. 

Silver lining: With a radically empathetic approach, you can establish yourself as a trustworthy and caring leader, and that builds loyalty. 

As the fundraising adage goes, “people give to people.” Likewise, your team gives their time, energy, and effort to each other and your nonprofit’s community, not just the abstract mission they work for. If you’re in a position to lead or affect change in your organization, now’s the time to lift up your teammates and show them you care. 

Nonprofit leadership workbook for women mockup


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *