CFO asks CEO: “What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave us?”
CEO: “What happens if we don’t, and they stay?”
Framing this quote in the context of the nonprofit sector, we have observed at Fundraising Leadership that most nonprofits invest in fundraising training. Where we see the gap is investing in growing leadership capacity. As David Hutchinson, President of Cause Leadership Inc., explains the social profit sector is currently facing one of the most significant leadership transitions. And there is an urgent need to develop the next generation of leaders.
I wonder if part of the challenge is how nonprofits measure success. Even when fundraisers are promoted to leadership positions they are often measured mainly on their ability to create strong external relationships and by the amount of money they raise. In other words, they are measured by the external not internal relationships they create.
I have been fortunate to work with many leaders over the past ten years who come to coaching to focus on their leadership style. This is inspiring but we still need to encourage organizations to do a better job of investing in current and future leaders.
The future of the sector depends on growing these leadership skills. Here are some ways that organizations can invest in growing leaders (or that you can do to invest in yourself):
Assess the situation:
Encourage your team and colleagues to take time for self-discovery. The first step to growing as a leader is to understand where you are starting from. The Fundraising Leadership team has identified the nine Essential Qualities of Fundraising Leaders that make nonprofit executives extraordinary. Take this free assessment to discover your superpowers and areas of potential. Encourage your teammates to do the same so you can discuss your results, commit to changes you want to make, and hold each other accountable.
Books are a gateway to new ideas and so many successful leaders in our sector are voracious readers. This includes Paul Nazareth who is well known for giving away favourite books at his networking events. An office book club can spark new ideas that you can implement in your organization. It can be a simple as meeting for lunch once a month to discuss the latest read. Check out our Essential Leadership Reading List for ideas. And if books aren’t your thing, then consider podcasts including ours, articles, TED Talks, etc.
Encourage your staff to interact with other leaders who will bring them new ideas and challenge them to grow. This can, and hopefully will, happen within your organization. And you also want to create time for your team to expand their networks. Encourage young fundraisers to volunteer with organizations such as AFP where they will get a chance to grow their leadership skills by serving on committees. Many of the most successful fundraising leaders I know also teach courses and regularly engage in speaking events. Support your staff by offering time to devote to these pursuits. Remember that any growth they experience will help them take your organization to the next level.
Invest in Leadership:
If your organization is mainly focused on fundraising training, then commit to expanding this to include leadership skill development. If your team attends an annual conference, then encourage them to choose sessions that focus on personal development, career development and leadership. Balance the focus so you are not only growing great fundraisers, but also great leaders. Examples of leadership skills include building trust, having challenging conversations, giving feedback, and helping your team to dream big.
We would love you to join us in March for the 4-week online course Leading High Performing Teams.
Let’s circle back to the opening quote. Investing in your staff may increase your organization’s retention rates. And if people decide to move on, remember that you are helping to create the future leaders that our sector needs. And that is something to be proud of.
We know that the Fundraising Leadership community is full of wisdom. Share in the comments section what you and your organization are doing to grow the next generation of leaders.
Janice Cunning is a Leadership Coach who is passionate about partnering with fundraisers to help them create an inspired vision that transforms lives. She is a Certified Relationship Awareness Facilitator who uses SDI to strengthen team dynamics.