Advancement Blog

Why you should invest in holistic talent reviews

by Dena Schwartz

57% of fundraising directors had no training before starting their first management job, yet they are expected to effectively manage staff from day one.

This career trajectory means that managers are often overwhelmed and underprepared. Additionally, gift officers often do not receive the support they need, because professional development conversations focus on resolving current problems, not thinking strategically about future goals and opportunities.

To help managers effectively conduct career conversations, encourage them to have talent review conversations with their direct reports.

Give talent reviews, not performance evaluations

Traditional performance review conversations are held to discuss annual goals, achievements, and areas of growth. They focus on past performance and how to improve results moving forward.

Understanding advancement staff talent reviews

Talent reviews are more nuanced—they focus on an employee’s strengths, likes, and career aspirations to create a roadmap for future career development. After the conversation, managers and direct reports can work together to create individual development plans (IDP) to put these goals on paper and define success.

Managers can later identify professional development opportunities that will help direct reports reach their goals. Frontline fundraisers can update the IDP when milestones are reached, ask for additional career conversations, and add new areas for professional growth.

Over time, talent reviews allow fundraisers to see how their professional development is supported by their current organization, which boosts staff retention and reducing the major gift officer (MGO) turnover.

3 steps to implement talent reviews at your institution

  1. Get managers on board
    Whether managers have been in seat for a while or are new to the role, everyone needs to be on the same page regarding talent review conversations. Hold a training session for managers to set expectations for talent review conversations and share tips, guidelines, and available resources.

  2. Prioritize manager-direct report conversations
    Ensure talent review conversations are planned and executed on the same schedule across the development division. These conversations can be embedded in existing performance review processes or held on a separate schedule. Set expectations for the frequency of how often these conversations will occur.

  3. Create career maps—and keep them up to date
    Through talent reviews, managers and their direct reports should document career aspirations, achievable metrics, and a timeline for professional development. Regularly check-in on progress, modify goals as needed, and add new milestones to help staff reach their long-term career goals.

Set major gift officers up for success (and retention)

Design a customized program for helping new hires gain the skills needed for success and increase long-term MGO retention rates with our tailored onboarding toolkit for MGOs.

Download the Toolkit


Burk P, “Too Busy Leading to Learn How to Lead,” March 21, 2014,

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