As the competition for talented major gift officers continues to mount, institutions of all shapes and sizes have elevated the search for talent to a strategic priority. Yet for many colleges and universities, the talent crunch has forced them to prioritize recruitment and onboarding, while staff retention still remains an issue. In fact, while many institutions often plan up to 12 months in advance to recruit for a new position, they devote very little time to skill-building plans for their current staff.
Realize untapped potential
A study by the Institute for the Study of Labor states that the marginal product of a well-trained employee is 23% higher than that of an untrained employee. Yet, all too often, advancement shops don’t think about the long-term growth and aspirations of their team members—diminishing the return on investment of hiring these staff in the first place. This is especially true if “spaghetti professional development,” where advancement leaders try numerous skill-enhancement exercises without much strategy or forethought, remains commonplace.
Move from a reactive to proactive approach
Professional development, if applied correctly, can provide a triple-win.
But to realize the three benefits of professional development and attain fundraising gains, institutions must formalize their approach with two key steps:
First, deploy a principled approach to diagnose skill gaps through focus groups, surveys, one-on-one sessions between managers and direct reports, and reviews to discuss and discover skill needs.
Second, establish an accountability mechanism to hold employees and their managers accountable for co-creating professional development plans that meet both individual and institutional needs.
The professional development you provide should help create 50/50 ownership between the employee and manager. Unlike students at your institution, adult members of your team need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction.
Peter Baeklund of Authentic Leadership and Peak Performance famously recounts a conversation between a CFO and a CEO. The CFO asks, “What if we invest in our people and they leave?” The CEO answers, “What if we don’t and they stay?”
This scenario has never been more applicable. Institutions need to invest in a professional development approach that focuses on individual and institutional needs and adheres to adult learning preferences. Formalized professional development processes can improve the performance of high-potential staff and retain the high performers that advancement shops desperately need.
Learn more about how to build fundraiser skills
Our Simulation-Based Coaching Toolkit for Fundraisers will help you replicate real-world scenarios to build your MGOs’ skills. It contains resources to lead a simulation-based coaching session using video replay and group feedback exercises to highlight and develop MGO strengths. Download the toolkit.