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Why is there so much turnover in development?

Development is one of those professionals where there is no clear path. How do so many people find themselves working for charities, and in particular, raising money for them? We want to make a difference, we want to have impact in this world, we want to do good, we care passionately about something, and so we follow our heart’s desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Like running a business, there are a lot of challenges and some people aren’t cut out to do this work. There are many studied reasons why there is so much turnover in development, but I think a lot has to do with people getting into this business not fully understanding what it takes to be successful. Have you heard the saying “you don’t know what you don’t know, and that is what gets you into trouble”? I think that not knowing what this business is all about and the work involved gets people in trouble. After recently coaching a newly hired Development Director for a client, she decided to move on. She told me that she just didn’t like the work. There is one thing knowing what you have to do but it is another having to actually go do it day in and day out.

Another reason for turnover is that the people hiring don’t fully understand the job so they hire a “personality” rather than a proved skilled set. This too leads to challenges and eventual parting of the ways. Raising money for a nonprofit is not for the faint of heart, but it is incredibly rewarding. A lot of what it takes to be truly successful requires doing the every day. You will learn as much from your mistakes as you will from your successes.

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