By: Marc Misiurewicz, President & Founder, Empreinte Consulting, LLC
At a time when every industry across the country is facing labor challenges, the tax-exempt sector is not immune to the demands employers are facing relating to hiring and retaining employees. Salary compression, shortage of qualified candidates and the evolving demands from employees to work remotely and enhance their benefits is putting tax-exempt leaders in a difficult position. The June 2022 issue of The Chronicle of Philanthropy addressed this issue with an article titled “Where did all the employees go?”. In it, the primary reason for staff shortages is salary. Competition with for-profit organizations is pushing base salaries higher and tax-exempts struggle to compete with limited budgets. At a rate of 1.9 job openings per every unemployed worker, the employees are in the driver’s seat.
This leads to the fundamental question that every tax-exempt leader is asking… “how can we address this issue to attract and retain more employees?.” The answer is not providing everyone with a pay raise, although internal compensation studies should occur. We humbly recommend that tax-exempts consider reinventing the workforce.
Standard recruiting practices dictate that employers articulate necessary credentials and experience, post a job description and look to match resumes. We have found that by thinking creatively and considering candidates that do not meet all the traditional standards, tax-exempts are finding outstanding candidates for open positions that are mission focused, eager to learn and want to work for the organization. In two recent cases, clients of ours hired employees from internal programs or operational positions and provided them training and support to succeed in their new fundraising positions. In both cases, the employees are functioning as Major Gift Officers and exceeding expectations in relation to their metrics. While they had no previous professional fundraising experience, or educational background in Development, they have excelled due to the intangible qualities they possess. Most importantly, they are mission focused.
Professional fundraisers are in high demand currently, and if they are willing to relocate, can find numerous opportunities providing career and salary growth. Instead of competing for these high demand candidates, look internally to determine who has the potential to learn the technical aspects of fundraising and more importantly cares deeply about your mission. We often feel that fundraising provides a wonderful opportunity to share stories. Who better to share those stories than people who have directly experienced your services, or provided those services to the people you serve? This firsthand perspective provides a higher level of credibility and sincerity in the relationship between donor and fundraiser. It also provides a higher likelihood of longevity in their employment with your organization as they want to support your mission as opposed to their self-interest.
This approach will directly increase your candidate pool and allow your organization to create a culture of internal opportunity and career growth for your employees. At the same time, you will enhance your culture by showing the value you place on individuals working in your organization. We hear so much about the “great resignation” that is occurring across the country and while we are seeing employees leave the workforce, a more appropriate description of current events relating to the labor force is the “great reconsideration.” Employees are taking the time to consider what type of work they want to do, how and where they want to do it. For those employees that are looking for a new challenge and want to stay with your organization due to the mission, the idea of a career in Development may be very appealing. You will build a team of storytellers across your organization and allow your employees to directly see the impact of their work. This approach may not work for more technical Development positions such as Database Management, Grant Writing and Prospect Research, however, if the employee does have a technical background, we recommend you keep an open mind.
The key to this approach is providing appropriate support to ensure success. Having a partner with subject matter expertise and the ability to train Development staff can provide you the confidence that you will make the right hiring decisions. Hopefully, this article has given you some points to consider as you look to address the workforce challenges we are all facing.