Stop the Cycle of Staff Turnover

New data shows how serious staff turnover is to nonprofit leaders

Just when I think that maybe I’m focusing too much on burnout and staff turnover, a new study comes out that confirms the crisis we are living through. The 2023 Nonprofit Leadership Impact Study cites “staff turnover” as the third highest key nonprofit leadership challenge.

Not only is turnover ranked high, but it’s also the first challenge listed that does not relate to fundraising. So, right after not having enough money to run their nonprofits, leaders’ main challenge is the struggle to retain staff.

As all of us in fundraising know, these two are related. In a 2021 survey of 1,035 fundraisers in the United States and Canada, conducted by Harris Insights & Analytics, through the Harris Poll, for the Chronicle of Philanthropy and the Association of Fundraising Professionals found that 51% of frontline fundraisers plan to leave their jobs in the next two years. 

Ten years ago CompassPoint and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund commissioned a report, Underdeveloped, that surveyed more than 2,700 executive directors and development directors across the country. The results still ring true in year 2023:

  • Executive directors at organizations where the development director position was vacant said the posts had been open for an average of 6 months. Almost half reported even longer vacancies.
  • More than half of the executives surveyed said their most recent development director search did not produce enough candidates with the right mix of skills and experience.
  • Half the development directors surveyed said they expect to leave their current jobs in two years or less.

As a development leader, if you cannot retain your staff, you cannot create momentum and smash your fundraising goals. And as a CEO, if you cannot retain your development leader, you will experience a decline in funds raised during the staff vacancy and transition. 

In the 2023 Nonprofit Leadership Impact Study, when asked about the top staff management challenges, numbers 2 and 3 illuminate the culture that is harming nonprofits:

#2 Not overworking their staff

#3 Hiring and retaining high-quality staff

Houston, we have a problem. Collectively nonprofits need to evolve their cultures to prevent and mitigate burnout, encourage health, provide professional development, and create opportunities for growth. Or else, workers are showing that they will not settle for less and will bounce to the next job. 

We don’t have a staffing problem, we have a leadership crisis. Nonprofit leaders, let’s listen to the data and get the training we need to stop the cycle of staff turnover and create steady and healthy teams. 

Let’s work together! Connect about a custom training for your team to evolve your workplace culture.

Are you a member of AFP Golden Gate? I’m teaching about staff retention strategies on 8/23–join us!


Shannon Bowen, Founder + CEO of Monsoon Leadership is a career advancement coach, job search expert, salary whisperer, nonprofit executive, and a lifelong straight-talker. She's dedicated to helping nonprofit professionals land their dream job and dream salary!


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