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Finding and keeping good fundraisers

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By Fritz Schroeder

As our nonprofit institutions increase their appetites for private dollars, the pressure to find talented staff has become a dominant force in development programs.

Demand for professional staff is increasing exponentially, but the supply of talent remains limited.

There are talented development officers all around the country; there just aren’t enough to fill the current level of demand, not to mention what we’ll need five, 10 and 15 years from now.

We have identified a set of staffing strategies here at Johns Hopkins, but I believe they can be applied to any type and size of organization.

First, we need to stand out in the market as a potential place of employment.

To do that, we need a set of values that is clearly stated and allows potential employees to mesh their value system with our opportunity.

We need a place that will provide challenges, but with a network of support tools, like systems, budgets and training that help staff succeed.

And we need a compensation package that is appropriate for the market and includes benefits, educational opportunities and other elements unique to our organizations.

Second, we should seek to grow our staff into leaders in the field.

That requires a significant investment in training, with both internal and external opportunities to learn, and an effort to train managers on the unique skills required to manage, in addition to solid fundraising skills.

And it requires an annual evaluation system that includes a conversation about professional goals, career development and opportunities for training.

Third, we must that understand that our current and former development officers are our best recruiting tools.

They know, better than anyone, the kind of people who will thrive in our organizations.

We should tap into the networks, professional friendships and other personal connections our staff have.

In return, we must be careful with referrals made by our staff: It is important that we look good in the eyes of their friends and professional colleagues.

Last, the third year is critical because that’s when a new development officer really begins to deliver significant gift revenue.

Years one and two are about acclimation, learning and establishing relationships.

We need to be very aggressive about paying attention to that third year and identifying ways to keep that officer around for years four, five and beyond.

All fundraisers know that good fundraising is enabled by establishing good relationships with our donors in pursuit of those common goals at our organization.

The same philosophy works with staff.

We need to develop good working partnerships, being mindful of their goals and ours, and how we can pursue them together.


Fritz Schroeder is associate vice president for development, Johns Hopkins Institutions.

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