The Turnover Issue

How does the turnover rate for the nonprofit sector compare to other industries? How does the turnover rate for fundraisers in small charities compare to large nonprofits? 

Turnover in the nonprofit sector is actually less than half the rate of turnover in the advertising/ marketing/ PR industries. Across all industries the charity/nonprofit sector turnover rate is below average and far below industries such as food/beverage, insurance, and human resources management. 

Nevertheless, turnover in the fundraising profession is an important issue, not least for its high indirect cost to the charity. The influencing factors are numerous and obvious, leaving for better pay being the primary reason. Good  fundraisers are scarce, noticed and aggressively courted by search firms. 

Penelope Burk conducts outstanding research in this area.

I wonder if most of this turnover in the development profession is primarily found among the large nonprofits with the capacity to offer high salaries that lend themselves to expensive professional searches. For the small charity, the fundraiser's closeness to the cause and to its leadership may curb the need to leave.

In this "at-will" era, employees everywhere are made to think of themselves as free agents. In the annual Global Workforce Study conducted by Towers Watson, most employees feel they must leave in order to advance their careers in general. In the 1980s, a Conference Board survey found that 56 percent of executives believed their employees deserved an assurance of continued employment. Just a decade later, that figure had plummeted to 6 percent. 

The smaller the charity the more likely the fundraiser may find an employment framework that facilitates mutual trust and investment with the charity's leadership. The fundraiser here may more likely develop her personal network and act entrepreneurially. The small charity fundraiser may have a greater ability to develop a sense of ownership that would resist the temptation to become a job-hopper. 

Entrepreneurial employees possess the "founder mindset." This energy and ingenuity is exactly what the small charity start-up requires and what the donor/investor interprets as passion for the cause. The small charity is where the fundraiser can discover how great she is and just how much she can emerge into the leader her cause needs.