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3 top tips for staff retention

Posted on 22/02/2018 by Matt Adams


A recent salary survey carried out by TPP Recruitment on behalf of the Institute of Legacy Management raised an interesting issue around staff satisfaction and retention amongst legacy professionals. Disappointingly, there were a number of respondents who reported feeling undervalued, despite the report finding that there had been some increases in salaries and investment in growing teams. Of particular note was the fact that only 28% of respondents confirmed that they would not plan a career move this year.

The high percentage of candidates considering a career move is not restricted to legacy specialists. The 2017 Fundraising salary survey conducted by TPP Recruitment across all income streams actually found that only 16% of respondents were planning on staying in post this year.

This will be of no surprise to Senior Charity Leaders and professional fundraisers who have long known that staff retention rates across all fundraising specialisms are notoriously low. However, further bad news is that they are reducing further– in the South East where the competition for fundraising talent is fiercest, we are seeing the average length in post for fundraisers is falling to somewhere between 12-18 months.

And low staff retention rates can be damaging for fundraising functions. High turnover can lead to inconsistent stewardship – damaging relationships with donors and their families that have been carefully built and managed by previous staff.

So what can be done to overcome these problems.

1. Salary

As expected, a constant throughout all salary surveys is that higher salaries are at the top of all fundraiser’s wish lists. Fundraising talent is in short supply, and demand is high. Therefore, it is vital that you are aware of your organisation’s position in the market, that salaries are regularly benchmarked, and that you keep up to date on salary trends across the fundraising specialisms. If you do this successfully, you stand a better chance of retaining your staff – our fundraising salary survey found that for 53% of respondents improved additional benefits would increase the likelihood of staying with their current employer.

2. Flexible-working/Working from home

With large salary increases and the introduction of other financial incentives off the table for many (higher pension contributions, medical insurance and life insurance always feature highly on the staff benefit wish-list), an open mind to flexible working is potentially the biggest change that a leader can make within the charity sector.  Flexible working and working from home ranked as the 1st and 3rd most-desired benefits in our latest Fundraising salary survey, yet only 15% and 16% of staff (respectively) received these benefits.

The not for profit sector has been slow to offer flexibility enabled by improvements in, and cheaper access to technology including cloud computing, secure database access, and video conferencing – nationally, c4m people now work occasionally or completely from home in the UK.  A recent TPP Blog looked at the concept of “shirking from home” – it found that for organisations thinking of offering more flexibility, setting rules and managing staff expectations are essential in ensuring that there are clear parameters and objectives for the day at home. Performance management strategies and online software to facilitate measurement exist. Tracking activity is key, and as a quick wander to their desk is not possible, phoning occasionally is important. Planning contingencies in case technology falls over is also sensible. Finally, as with everything, impact needs to be reviewed regularly to ensure it remains a benefit, both to the employee and the organisation.

3. Training and Development?  

Whilst salary and flexible working feature on the wishlists for fundraisers across all income streams, leaders should be aware that there are subtle differences between teams. For example, a desire for more training and development featured highly for Legacy Specialists, but actually was rated as being of a very low importance for other all specialisms.  Perhaps a reflection of the technical requirements of your individual teams, but a reminder to be aware that different areas will be looking to you for different types of support.

Future for fundraising

The three suggestions outlined can help to alleviate the short-term issue of low staff retention, but longer term these issues will prevail as long as the overall shortage of candidates remains. There are issues attracting fundraising talent at all levels, but this is more pronounced with more junior candidates. The IoF’s work to obtain Chartered status for the profession and ongoing work to improve diversity will undoubtedly attract more to the sector but will take time. In the meantime, taking on board recommendations as outlined above should provide some help.