With the nonprofit employee turnover rate hovering around 19%, more than half of nonprofits report turnover as a major obstacle in accomplishing their mission. I come from the nonprofit world and am very familiar with this challenge. At the small nonprofit where I worked for several years before joining thedatabank, we experienced an average annual turnover rate of 40%! So I know a thing or two about how to get through a staff transition smoothly and keep data and technology on track.
We’ve all heard (and probably experienced) that nonprofit employees are often asked to wear a lot of hats. The person working at your front desk may also be the whole marketing team; your development director may also be the de facto IT person. This is one of the most rewarding – and most frustrating – aspects of working in the nonprofit sector. While it’s great to know that every team member is needed and that the work we do makes a real impact, sometimes losing a colleague can feel like losing two. It doesn’t have to be like that, though; there’s plenty we can do to prepare.
Here are a few tips to preserve your well-being (and your nonprofit’s) during a staff transition.
- Make sure new employees get trained on technology stat. Even if you are not a manager, this is partly your responsibility; new colleagues will probably need your help sometimes while they are learning the ropes. This is also a great opportunity for you to get a refresher on your nonprofit technology. As new team members ask questions, you may find yourself learning something new! One of our earlier blog posts includes information and resources for getting new employees on board with technology.
- Keep up with your data management. Data documentation should be done on an ongoing basis, but staff transitions present a good opportunity to make sure all your data ducks are in a row. You don’t want to start training in a new employee only to find that the person they are replacing had some key information they forgot to share with the team – like the location of a spreadsheet full of donor data. Consistency is also key for data management; make sure all information is entered in the same format in a document and all documents are given names and locations that make them easy to find for those who need them.
For a guide to data documentation, including a simple data inventory sheet to get you started, check out this post on our blog.
- Invest in a good hat rack. As I mentioned earlier, nonprofit employees get asked to wear a lot of hats. But if you feel overburdened, don’t be afraid to tell your employer. (On a similar note, Vu Le of Nonprofit With Balls has a great and hilarious post advocating for hard-working nonprofit employees to take time off to prevent burnout.) Your nonprofit will run much more smoothly and better achieve its strategic goals if you and your colleagues are comfortable with the hats you are wearing – and know when to take one off.
Nonprofit work can be fun, challenging, and rewarding. But with such a high employee turnover rate, nonprofit workers have the additional task of making sure things run smoothly before, during, and after a staff transition. With the right technology training, data management, and clear boundaries about who does what, employees of the nonprofit sector can be happy and healthy and continue to meet strategic goals through any challenge.