Development Staff Stretched to the Limit

Dear Kim,

I write on behalf of myself and one colleague who are in charge of raising $1 million per year for our 501(c)3 and $400,000 per year for our lobbying arm. We have no support staff or interns except for one person who does the data entry for us. The rest of the staff wants the organization to keep growing– new programs, more staff. I am feeling stretched to the limit and in serious danger of burnout. It is reasonable for me and my development colleague to think we need more staff if we are supposed to raise more money? I don’t have any sense of the size of the development staffs of other organizations.
—One Foot in the Grave and One Out the Door

Dear Foot,

Your situation is far too common. You need support staff to help you right now to even keep up with your fundraising, and maybe the rest of the current staff needs to find ways to take on a few fundraising tasks. Whether you need more development staff or simply more administrative support will depend on your situation, but it is completely unrealistic to think that you can keep raising more money with the same number of staff, unless you have an extremely active and motivated board (as well as help from other staff). Since you didn’t mention such, I am assuming you don’t.

Our lives would be easier if we had some kind of formula that told us that we need this many staff for this much money to be raised. Unfortunately, fundraising doesn’t work that neatly. However, there is analysis that you can apply to help you. What you need to do is keep track of all your tasks, how long they take, and also what you are not able to do in the time you have. You can then look at how much time you are spending and how much needs to be spent to get the job done. If you are feeling almost burned out, it is probably because you are working way overtime. Remember that when you work many hours of overtime, week in and week out, you simply disguise the cost of doing business. If it takes 60 hours a week to do your job, and you feel that you are a reasonably efficient person, then your job takes 1.5 people.

A time analysis will help bolster your case that you need more staff and will also give you a job description for additional staff. Many people think they need to hire a development person, when what they need is actually a very talented, detail oriented clerical or administrative support person.

Bottom line: you cannot be expected to coordinate raising more money with your current level of staffing unless you have much more involvement from other staff and board. Good luck. See the next letter for another take on the problem and more insight.