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Employee Retention Strategies for Nonprofits During Giving Season

October 24, 2023 (6 min read)
Employee morale is important to employee retention during Giving Season.

Many people get started in nonprofits because they are very passionate about the cause. This means that the work is incredibly meaningful and can be very fulfilling. However, with funding and staffing limitations, the nonstop list of tasks, and passion for the cause, the sector sees a high rate of employee burn out. And of course, that issue becomes even larger during stressful periods like “Giving Season.”

While there isn’t a “one size fits all” strategy, there are plenty of things that organizations can do to retain, recruit, and strengthen your team. Here, we outline ways in which nonprofits can address this head-on, especially during more intense seasons.

Retention and hiring remains a challenge for nonprofits

It’s no secret that Giving Season is a high-stress time. While the general lack of resources and understaffing issues can be challenging during any season, these problems can be exacerbated with the all-hands-on-deck push to meet end-of-year giving goals. Development offices are currently struggling to recruit for unfilled positions, and keep the filled positions intact, and that’s predicted to continue for the foreseeable future.

Even if you have the most motivated team, motivation issues, in part because of the lack of resources but also due to the end-of-year pressures, can develop towards the end of the year. When employees feel disconnected from their teams and the nonprofit’s overall mission, they lack the motivation needed to get through that final EOY push.

MORE: How to make the most of your nonprofit fundraising efforts

Mitigate employee retention challenges in Giving Season with team building

While burnout and dwindling motivation can be found across the industry, that doesn’t mean attrition is a foregone conclusion. As mentioned, people choose to work at nonprofits because they care about the mission and want to feel connected to a community. To combat any retention issues, it’s important to focus on the mission, communicate, and keep your team engaged in the goal.

Keep the mission at the forefront

Employees generally choose to work at a nonprofit because of a connection to something bigger. It’s likely that the people on your team sought out their roles because they align with the overall ethos and mission of the organization, but that ethical alignment can feel lost in the day-to-day hustle.

It’s important to tie every task back to the overall mission of the company so that everyone can understand how their own work funnels into the greater goals. For instance, university fundraisers should be invited to larger school functions so that they can see the fruits of their labor in action. While it might feel overwhelming to reach for a fundraising goal during Giving Season, enjoying the buildings that were gained from previous years’ efforts is a great way to reconnect with the bigger picture.

Communication is crucial

Because so many teams are remote or hybrid, it’s easy for employees to feel siloed, or excluded. This can be remedied by an “open door” policy—think regular Zoom office hours, larger chat rooms for water cooler talk, and frequent team meetings that connect everyone together.

Higher-ups should ensure that employees always have a means of getting in touch, whether that’s in-person or online. Opening the means of communication will make each team member feel valued, important and part of something bigger than themselves.

Focus on engagement

The third strategy builds off the first two and underscores the importance of building rapport within a team. Anything that gets employees to engage with their teams will make them feel more connected to the organization and more motivated to get through the work week.

For example, if your company is stretched across the country, having an end-of-year party that everyone attends in person can be a great way to prompt camaraderie and provide some extra excitement, which will in turn lead to retention and motivation. 

MORE: 5 tips to turn a fundraising request into a must-tell story

Maximize impact in a small team

After looking at the larger picture of ways to shift the company culture, it’s important to zoom in on the daily tasks and struggles that employees are facing. When retention and recruitment are issues, it likely means that team members are overworked, doing three jobs at once to make up for the understaffing issue.

Here are some strategies for employees who feel overstretched.

Prioritize your workflow

Prioritization is the key to tackling overwhelm. When a team member knows exactly what’s on their plate and how to organize their time, they can field incoming requests with confidence and ease, without getting distracted by less-important tasks being asked of them.

Bookmarking the tabs you visit often is one easy, five-minute strategy that will save a great deal of time—take a quick second to make sure your bookmarks bar has everything you need daily.

Similarly, using spreadsheets or other technology to streamline workflow is imperative. When employees can visualize everything on their to-do list, it’s far easier to dive in. Finally, using AI programs to work through the more mundane tasks can come in handy for people who are running low on time and energy.

Invest in technical resources to fill the gaps

Technology can streamline donor prospecting workflow by making it so that employees don’t need to turn to dozens of sites to accomplish one single task.

For instance, exploring donor profiles through a tool like Nexis® for Development Professionals makes it easy to organize this information all in one place. This saves time by allowing you to access public and private data about donors with one search. Then, you can create donor profiles within the platform to connect millions of data points across news, business, and legal sources and create a comprehensive picture of a donor

This streamlines your workflow by allowing you to segment donors based on things like income, education, interests, donation history, gift size, interests, or location. Segmenting donors also saves time—you can communicate with segments as one entity, personalizing your communications without having to send each message individually.

In addition to streamlining your workflow and eliminating busy work, these tools save you money in the long run as it is ten times more expensive to attract a new donor than to keep an existing one—making it even easier to meet your goals.

Use third-party vendors for research

Donor research can be incredibly arduous for prospectors. With the sheer volume of data available, it can be difficult to know where to begin, especially when you have other tasks that need your time and attention—leading to stress and more burnout. That’s why using a donor research or prospecting software is crucial. These tools not only help screen donors, but you can apply filters to dig deeper, getting a fuller picture of them, or set automated alerts to circle back with an ask. 

For example, a tool like Nexis for Development Professionals can connect the dots across 45,000+ sources, drawing on 86 billion public records*, to bring all this information into a single view. Not only do you have access to all the information you need with one search, but you also eliminate extraneous data that can make your research take more time or cause you headaches if you reach out to a prospect with incorrect information. By using a verified source, you can prevent further frustration for you and your employees.

Set your team up for success

While the workforce has changed drastically into a more siloed, remote environment, technology and workflow solutions are also experiencing massive evolutions. Whether your team needs more face time with each other to increase motivation or more resources to decrease their overwhelm, there is likely a solution right around the corner.

For more tips on reaching peak fundraising performance in the most efficient way, check out our tips and tricks with everything you need to crush your donor prospecting and reach your fundraising goals.