Technology, Trust, and the Impact of Nonprofit Staff Turnover - Heller Consulting

Technology, Trust, and the Impact of Nonprofit Staff Turnover

Employee turnover at nonprofits is at the forefront of many nonprofit leadership conversations.  

Of course, you face the task of replacing staff members that walk out the door. But you also lose their knowledge about your organization when they leave, making it more difficult to keep things running smoothly and get new employees up and running.

The good news is that technology – paired with knowledge management practices – can help. By providing more technology training, more access to data across the organization, and the updated technology tools staff members need to do their jobs, you empower people to make data-informed decisions.

And, by democratizing data, you build a foundation of trust amongst staff, which in turn helps with retention.

Let’s take a closer look at the impact of nonprofit staff attrition and what the right software and approaches can do to minimize it.  

The impact of nonprofit staff attrition

At Heller Consulting, we’re hearing about the staff attrition challenge from local Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) members and at networking groups of development professionals. Some of us who recently joined Team Heller straight from nonprofit organizations have experienced it firsthand And we’ve read references to an annual turnover rate of 19% within nonprofits (outpacing the all-industry average of 12%) as well as references to a study that shows the average fundraiser stays at their job for 16 months before moving to another position.

Needing to replace multiple staff members each year presents a big enough challenge. But as employees walk out the door, the institutional knowledge in their heads goes with them.

This can be troublesome across the organization, but particularly when it comes to development staff members, who are tasked with creating and growing long-term relationships with donors.

Gaps in knowledge also creates hurdles for new employees who are trying to get up to speed and feel confident, making it harder still to keep those employees around long-term.

Using technology and knowledge management to minimize the impact of staff turnover

Knowledge management approaches and your nonprofit’s technology can go a long way toward helping you hold onto your institutional knowledge, even when you lose staff. Here are examples of three areas in which capturing and optimizing data in your technology systems can help you to minimize the impact of staff attrition on your nonprofit:


We often hear about nonprofits in which only one person in the organization knows how to pull reports in their donor database or fundraising system. That’s a big problem when that one person unexpectedly leaves the organization. Not to mention, often the reason only one person is running reports in the first place goes back to a lack of trust and a lack of data access across the organization.

Here are a few ways to address this issue using your technology:

  • Build reports in your system that show key data that’s needed regularly by your organization’s departments, executives, and board members. This approach makes it easier to keep processes running smoothly when someone leaves a role and for a new employee to step into it.

  • Set up executive dashboards in your system so that your organization’s leaders always have access to key performance metrics and can drill down for more detail, if needed.

  • Make sure that people across the organization have direct access to the information they need so they don’t have to rely on others to accomplish their work. This information includes training resources, documentation, and knowledge about how to access data.


TIP: When implementing new technology, train more than one person in your organization to pull reports and perform other key functions in the new system.



Business processes can come to a screeching halt when the only person who knows a particular role or specific steps in the process leaves the organization. That’s why it’s important to document your organization’s key processes and how they’re completed in your system.

Be sure to also include data governance policies as part of your documentation. These policies should establish how data is entered into your system, who is allowed to make changes, and how changes are approved – making it easier to keep data consistent during times of staff turnover.


TIP: Modern technology systems allow you to establish parameters to help ensure data is entered in accordance with your policies.



Having a technology training program in place is critically important to keeping your nonprofit running smoothly, even when staff members leave. It helps to get new staff members up to speed faster, helps them feel more confident in their roles, and ensures that more than one staff member knows how to use your key technology systems.

If you don’t already have a software training program in place, keep in mind that modern customer relationship management (CRM) systems support a great training program in multiple ways. For example, nonprofit technology from Salesforce and Microsoft allow you to add in-line training, including short, topic-specific content that your staff can access at the specific time they need it while using the system. They also provide extensive online training so that your team can continue learning year-round.

Staff turnover can be disruptive. But having the right technology and knowledge management practices in place can help you get new employees onboard and effective more quickly, improve employee satisfaction (and, in turn, retention), and maintain overall continuity in your data, processes, communications, and relationships with donors and other constituents.

If you’d like to talk about how technology can minimize the effects of employee turnover at your nonprofit, contact us today. We’re ready to help.

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About the Authors

Jett Winders
Jett works collaboratively with nonprofits to map their business needs to CRM tools and functionality so that organizations can deliver their missions more effectively and raise money more efficiently.  With more than 15 years of fundraising experience, Jett has had... Read More
Paige Deegan
Paige brings more than 16 years of nonprofit development and communications experience to the Heller team. Whether serving as a team leader, gift officer, annual fund manager, grant writer or vaunted one-person shop, she has worked in a variety of... Read More

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