The board chair of volunteer-based nonprofit calls. She wants my help to obtain income to hire their first staff member. This new employee will run special events, do office management, write grants, and spearhead development efforts. In my 20 years of advising nonprofits I’ve listened to Rolodex full of similar requests to help make this mistakes. I’ve dubbed it, The One Small Step, Giant Leap Nonprofit Gaffe.
Hiring staff is an important next step for volunteer based nonprofits that seek growth. It’s the decision to couple development work with a host of other tasks that is the gaffe. (This gaffe is also made by staffed organizations that hire development directors to fulfill multiple roles, such as communications and public relations.) It’s a gaffe because it’s:
In terms of earning donated money it’s a gaffe because:
The One Small Step, Giant Leap Gaffe results in increased expenses and frustration. It results in decreased resources and energy. It leads to high staff turnover.
Giant Leap Forward Options
Here are two solutions from Karen. Pick one of the following roles for the new staff member. Either:
1. Hire someone to help handle the details, so the current board of directors can focus on donated income and big picture issues.
2. Raise funds for two or more years of salary. Then, hire someone with fundraising expertise to lead you in income development. Listen to them. The board and volunteers continue to handle the details until funds are raised to hire a third person to handle some of their workload.
In either case, plan to work as hard after the hire as before it. It’s your path to the next level and a giant leap forward.
For more answers, check out this Nonprofit CEO Library.
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Karen Eber Davis provides customized advising and coaching around nonprofit strategy and board development. People leaders hire her to bring clarity to sticky situations, break through barriers that seem insurmountable, and align people for better futures. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.
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