New Staffing Models Born Out of Crisis

Special Report | Summer 2021


Researched and written by Senior Consultant & Principal Cathy McGrath and Associate Consultant Bree Muehlbauer 

Remote Work Options are Here to Stay

Throughout the pandemic, many advancement offices shifted from working together to conducting business remotely. As the pandemic restrictions ease, more and more offices are deciding that remote work is here to stay. We recently gathered responses from nearly 200 advancement leaders across nonprofit sectors to learn about their advancement staffing plans. Our survey included multiple choice responses as well as the opportunity to share thoughts about the value of offering a remote work option to employees. Words that frequently appear in text responses suggest major themes in decision making: team, time and flexibility. 

How has the work week changed from before the pandemic?

Prior to the start of the pandemic, the advancement leaders reported that 71% of staff worked on-site only, whereas after the pandemic, only 28% are returning to that model. Overwhelmingly, advancement offices are offering some or all staff a work week that includes both on-site and remote work.

Many respondents noted positive changes in the remote work setting including reduction of commute time, ability to focus and increased productivity and efficiency. The advancement leaders surveyed shared that major gift officers were particularly effective in the remote work model because their work is mostly dependent on meeting with donors and constituents outside of the office.

office and home illustration

Advancement Staffing Policy Pre- and Post-Pandemic

How are advancement offices handling remote work options for different roles?

The data show that many offices will offer the remote work options to all staff. Of the four staff categories, the back-office staff were the least likely to be offered a remote work option. A little more than half of the advancement offices surveyed offered back-office staff the option. One advancement leader stated, “For database functions [back office], the opportunity to work at home provides uninterrupted time to focus on data integrity, data output and process.” Only a small minority of respondents indicated that no staff were offered the option to work from home.

When you consider the data all together, regardless of the role, most advancement offices offered remote work options to all or some of their staff. Not all offices are offering full-time remote; many indicated that they would use hybrid models or work with individual members of staff on the best solution.

Which staff were offered to work remotely?

How does the option for remote staffing compare across the industry categories?

Advancement leaders in healthcare, higher education, independent schools, arts and culture and other nonprofit sectors reported that before the pandemic, most staff worked on-site only. Most nonprofit sectors had a significant shift from pre-pandemic staffing models to post-pandemic. Arts, culture and environmental nonprofits showed the greatest shift to offering a remote work option to all or some of their staff, though all industries saw this change.

Independent schools had the smallest change from all staff working on-site to some or all staff having remote work options. Advancement leaders in independent schools noted this was because of the nature of the independent school environment. Many independent school advancement leaders shared that it was necessary to have staff on-site to build a sense of community and participate in the life of the school, even though they were able to do their work from home.

Pre-Pandemic Staffing

Post-Pandemic Staffing

So why offer remote work options to employees? 

Overwhelmingly, advancement leaders saw the option to work remotely as positive for both retention and recruitment of talent and productivity within their offices. As many industries are seeing staffing shortages and positions are difficult to fill for a variety of reasons — including budget, talent pool and a shifting mentality among employees — remote work will be a critical incentive. 

Many leaders noted that offering a remote work option will be an imperative to remain competitive when filling positions. As workplaces address issues of equity, remote work options offer new opportunities to meet the individual needs of employees. According to the advancement leaders who responded to the survey, remote work allows employees flexibility to balance their family and work responsibilities, provides uninterrupted time to focus, eliminates stressful commutes and improves employee satisfaction. In terms of recruitment, a remote work option widens the recruiting pool and helps balance salary expectations if new employees do not have to relocate. Trends suggest that more and more employees are beginning to demand a remote work option. 

How does offering a remote work option affect retention, recruitment and productivity?

What are advancement leaders saying about the remote work option? 

Trends in the data we collected from the advancement leaders, as well as their comments, suggest that adopting a flexible work environment is important — and complex. Offices are taking different approaches to the remote work option, and most recognize the value of offering remote work to staff. One of our respondents highlighted the importance of ongoing flexibility as we explore the post-pandemic work life: 

“Our Central Advancement team has been highly productive in the work from home environment. The questions that need answering relate to individuals’ mental health and personal needs; balance of virtual and in-person events and meetings with donors; integration with the rest of campus; and building the philanthropic culture. We have an incredible opportunity to experiment and try new ways of engaging but need to be careful that decisions aren’t locked in and irreversible before we determine effectiveness and long-term sustainability. I believe an open culture of trial and error is going to be essential in realizing the full benefits and potential of these new approaches and paradigms.”