How to attract and retain top gift officers in 2022

In the health care fundraising world, it’s major gift officers who are the face of the organization. And It’s no secret that the last two years have been especially tough on them.

Mask wearing, remote meetings and canceled events don’t make it easy to build relationships with prospects and donors. Add in personal challenges like illness, childcare issues, school closures, and limited resources — you have a surefire recipe for burnout. 

Hence, the much-talked-about Great Resignation. I often hear from health care leaders about how difficult it is to keep talented fundraisers. Yet turnover in philanthropy is nothing new.

Even before the pandemic, gift officers often didn’t make it to their two-year anniversary. However, the pandemic made it abundantly clear that something needs to change. 

In the current market, gift officers, especially top producers, have lots of options. The consequence — a revolving door that hurts both the bottom line and department morale.

How can CEOs and CDOs support and retain their best fundraisers?

It’s time to stop thinking about the Great Resignation and start thinking about the Great Opportunity. If anything, Covid was a wake-up call that organizations need to invest in fundraising and fundraisers. 

  1. Assess the organizational culture 

In today’s work-from-home era, I might update Peter Drucker’s famous quote, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” to “Culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”

Take a hard look at your organization. Is philanthropy a priority? Are hospital and philanthropy leaders communicating and working together? Are clinical and philanthropic goals aligned? Your answers should be yes, yes, and yes, or you could have some work to do. 

You may have heard the story about President John F. Kennedy where he visits NASA and asks a janitor what he is doing. The janitor responds that he’s helping to put a man on the moon. In health care, everyone’s job relates to caring for patients. And philanthropy is critical to achieving that goal. 

Take an even harder look at how you treat your fundraisers. Make them feel valued. Offer growth opportunities and competitive salaries. Provide flexibility. Show appreciation and empathy. Respect diverse perspectives. Be an employer of choice. 

2. Develop a strong pipeline of prospects

Helping fundraisers succeed starts with developing a strong pipeline. Fundraising, especially in a health care environment, is a team sport. Development staff in all areas —from prospect research to planned giving— have important roles. So do board members, hospital leaders, and clinicians, who are essential to finding donors. 

Board members should be ambassadors. They should be loyal to the organization, have connections in the community, and open doors and make introductions. Physicians and nurses can be involved by recognizing patients and families who are grateful and who want to express appreciation as part of their healing process. 

Investing in technology makes it easier to identify prospects. Tools like robust patient donor screening platforms based on artificial intelligence can increase productivity by better prioritizing pipelines. With HIPAA compliant patient data, a health care philanthropy office can use algorithms that detect a patient’s gratitude indicators along with their wealth capacity and be 400% more likely to pinpoint a potential donor. These leads can then be strategically assigned to gift officers’ portfolios.

The combination of leads from organizational connections and innovative technology sends solid prospects into a gift officer’s pipeline, helping close gifts and reach goals. 

3. Use data-driven analytics to set expectations and provide transparency 

Raising at least 10 times their salary in pledges annually is the traditional benchmark for top major gift officers. This equates to a minimum of 12 prospect visits a month. Yet like the best baseball players, even the best gift officers strike out more than they connect. 

Gift officers need support and tools to achieve goals that can seem daunting at first. With metric tools like Key Performance Indicator (KPI) dashboards and time-management processes, gift officers can have a plan and organize their time efficiently. 

By doing simple calculations to figure out the number of gifts needed to meet a goal, gift officers can analyze their time in detail. Breaking down goals to monthly targets and weekly steps gives them a roadmap to success with small, manageable moves. 

Individual and team KPI dashboards that are easy to update and access offer accountability and transparency. Gift officers can see what they’ve succeeded and where they need a boost. 

With support from Gobel, Essentia Health Foundation implemented G2G (Gratitude 2 Give), a customized predictive modeling of patient donor prospects and trained its major gift officers to use a metrics-based approach with KPI dashboards to achieve organizational goals. Essentia continues to use this approach as new gift officers join their team.

“Our team now feels supported to achieve their goals. They are motivated to fundraise, knowing that Essentia values the work they’re doing and will invest in both their professional development and the tools they need to be successful,” said Derek Groves, president of Essentia Health Foundation.

A positive culture, a strong pipeline, and tools that simplify data are a winning combination for an excellent return on your investment. You have nothing to lose — except talent.

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