change is good

The Value of Interim Staffing

Change is inevitable if not uncomfortable and when a nonprofit organization loses a staff member, especially in a leadership role. Navigating the vacancy while ‘keeping the lights on’ can be a tricky one.  If an organization doesn’t manage such a change properly, it could result in lost partnerships or funding.

One of the most strategic actions an organization can take is to bring in an interim professional until the position can be filled. It is important to look at your interim staff in a way to help bridge those weeks or months in as seamless a way as possible. 

Your interim will work with leadership to aid in establishing an environment of confidence that the organization will not suffer during the change and programming will continue ‘as usual’. It is critical that leadership review roles and responsibilities as they tie into the expectations during the term of the interim arrangement.  Those agreements should also be conveyed, appropriately, to community partners, funders, and staff.

There are several main considerations when you look to hire an interim executive director:

  • Having someone at the helm allows the board of directors to focus on a strong search process and prepare for the new hire’s role.

  • An interim ED conveys stability during the transition and helps convey a strong message of effective leadership to staff, volunteers, program participants, donors, and funders.

  • During the tenure of the interim ED, there is an opportunity for an unbiased evaluation of problematic systems and operations providing the path to make changes before the new hire arrives at the organization.

When you bring a professional interim on staff, it allows you to thoughtfully find your next person without rushing it along and ending up costing your organization more than necessary. It also offers the permanent hire a very favorable starting point when they come on board. An experienced interim professional can spend that transition time evaluating the organization and working on structural issues in advance of the hiring of that hiring.

Other interim professionals can help ease a transition as well including an interim development director or interim financial officer. The more important a position is to the organization, the more an interim professional is likely to aid in a smooth transition. A consultant who is familiar with these kinds of transitions may also be useful in a situation where the organization is thinking of adding a new position. A seasoned professional can set up systems so the organization can hire someone with less experience who can keep those systems operating.

The bottom-line is a strong one: by investing in a healthy and thoughtful transition plan with the help of interim staff, you ease the pain of change and set up a more favorable entry point for permanent staff.


Scion Nonprofit Staffing – Interim Staffing

Development Consulting Solutions – Interim Staffing

The Future of Fundraisers

A recent report on job satisfaction produced by the Chronicle of Philanthropy and the Association of Fundraising Professionals found that 51% of development professionals who responded said that they did not expect to be in their current job two years from now and 30% said that they did not expect to still be in the profession two years from now.

What does that mean for the future of the profession?

How can you build relationships, which is the basis for fundraising, if staff changes every two years? The short tenure of development staff has had an impact on many organizations for years. These issues were raised in UnderDeveloped, a 2013 report from CompassPoint. We have seen little change since then.

Organizations that can retain staff have a distinct advantage over those who have a revolving door in the development so every organization should be examining their development shop and personnel policies with an eye to maximizing staff retention. Here are some common complaints I hear from fellow development professionals:

  • Unrealistic expectations: Organizations often expect a new development professional with proven success to begin getting results immediately. In my experience, a new development professional starts hitting optimal performance about 18 months into the job and continues seeing moderate increases annually after that. But some organizations are expecting more by the time a new employee meets their first annual evaluation. This is exacerbated by budget committees who set fundraising goals based upon the gap between what they want to do and what they made previously. Setting goals should be a result of a conversation beginning with revenue projections based upon fundraising opportunity and a strategic development plan that takes advantage of those opportunities.
  • Under-staffing: Many organizations do not have adequate development staff for the amount of activity required to meet the desired goals. The burden is even greater if the organization has opted for lots of fundraising events to meet goal. Although events serve lots of purposes including publicity in the general community, donor acquisition, and an avenue for corporate giving through sponsorships, they are the least cost-effective way to raise money. Every organization should have one signature event as part of their comprehensive development program, but ideally, they should do one event and do it really well. Under-staffing is a barrier to an appropriate work/life balance which leads to burnout.
  • Low compensation: Nonprofits do not have the resources of for-profit companies, but many nonprofits also operate from a position of poverty. They think that cutting corners with each expense is the only way to operate with limited resources. Nonprofits can’t compete with for-profit companies, but mission-driven individuals with professional skills are attracted to the organizations that provide adequate compensation (including benefits). Higher salaries are an investment in the people who can bring you higher revenues.

Infographic by AFP