Issue 2 – Fall 2013: Walking the talk

The benefits of modelling and encouraging retention

Senior leaders who want to keep and develop their staff teams had better demonstrate commitment and longevity in their own careers. That’s what qualifies Paul Alofs and Sherri Mackenzie_Philanthropy_quotessuch conviction about the importance of employment stability. As President & CEO (Alofs) and Chief Development Officer (Freedman) of the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, they lead a fundraising team renowned for its longevity. And they have been in their own positions for 10 and eight years, respectively.

As Alofs and Freedman reflect on their own careers and modestly discuss how Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation has achieved such consistent team longevity, two things become clear: Staff longevity and long-term fundraising success share a single, solid base. And both the organization and the individual are responsible for continually building the elements of that base.

“The board, senior management, the staff – the whole organization needs to elevate this dialogue about the importance of staying put,” Alofs notes. “We need the kind of leaders who encourage people to stay, work and develop.”

That includes the Board of Directors.

“If there’s a new CEO every two years,” he asserts, “the entire Board needs to be replaced! Boards should be responsible for hiring and keeping a great CEO and great senior leaders. Boards should hold themselves accountable for hiring right and keeping those people around.”

LONG-TERM COMMITMENT FOSTERS TRUST, GIVING

“A very significant gift last year was the result of the work of a development officer who’d been here 12 years,” Sherri recalls. “The donors gave at higher and higher levels, finally giving $50 million. When there’s longevity, you know things about the donor, the family dynamics, and whether they care about recognition. Those donors also know that if they open the door for a friend, family member or colleague, the fundraiser will treat that person with the same respect.”

“Major donors hate to see a new person every year or two,” Alofs confirms. “Consistency and longevity matter in any relationship. At Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, the average tenure on the major gift team is eight years. That stability is reflected in the many donors who have made multiple gifts and written the institution into their wills. At organizations where there have been many shortterm CEOs, major donors will be less confident. Turnover works against you in terms of building confidence with major donors. It’s striking how simple and how important that is.”

HOW TO BUILD A CULTURE OF LONGEVITY

If you value longevity (and you should), it’s important to say so. “We recognize long service, and we make a big deal of it,” Freedman says. The longest serving member of the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation team, Alof’s executive assistant, has been with the Foundation over 20 years. Alofs notes that Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation’s Board models longevity as well. Members can serve up to three terms of three years, and most of them stay for the entire nine years.