Do You Need to Hire A Development Director?

Well, let’s see. Do you want to make exponentially more money? Yes? Then you need to hire a Development Director.

Not a Development Coordinator.

Not a Development Associate.

A Development Director.

This is one of the most corrupt and confusing parts of nonprofit work, when a nonprofit only has a development manager, a development associate or development officer, and not a development director. Why do we let them get away with this? Well, in a nutshell, feminized labor, and sexism.

mazarine treyz, development director, a pale person is laughing with a purple shirt woman with blond hair.

Give the Development Director their proper title.

If there is a sole development staff person, they are going to be filling the role of development director, whether they are called the development director or not.

For example, when I was a development associate at a previous nonprofit, I was writing and sending mailings. I was coordinating marketing. I was doing data entry, and sending out thank you notes too. Also, I was writing the newsletters. I was managing the office staff and volunteers. I was coordinating the events. Getting sponsorships. Creating the event experience. Finding the entertainment. Soliciting auction items and coordinating their sale. Calling major donors and saying thank you. Creating relationships with board members and committees. The only things I wasn’t doing were grants and major gifts.

However, to keep me at a lower salary level, the nonprofit had decided that I would be called an “Associate.”

I am going to speak this dirty little secret out loud. If you are the sole development staff person, no matter what your title is, you ARE the development director.

It’s time to start agitating for your correct title, development director.

If you are considering hiring your first development person for your nonprofit, do not try to hire a development coordinator or associate. You need someone who is willing to take responsibility for fundraising, and teaching other people how to fundraise. This will mean you will have 10 fundraisers, instead of one. Invest in experience. Or invest in someone who is willing to get the experience you need. But don’t insult them by calling them something lower than they are. This kind of manipulation does not engender trust.

And if your development person can’t trust you, then why would they want to help people give to you?

The answer is, they wouldn’t. You will poison them against fundraising for you by your attitude. And in development, attitude is everything. It makes relationships work. And development is about relationships.

So, once you have decided to hire your first development director, what’s the first step?

First, think of what you want the Development Director to do.

Here are some brainstorming words to get you started.
Public Speaking?
Online fundraising?
Annual Report?
Graphic Design?
Events? Which ones?
Major Gifts?
Community management?
Database creation/maintenance?
Managing others?

This will help you write a realistic job description. And remember, it’s been two years of a pandemic. They are tired. They are less able to focus. Err on the side of asking them to do LESS. Talk about working 3 or 4 day work weeks. Show them you care, and they will care about you too. Treat them like robots, and they will be looking for a new job in the first week.

Then, think of questions you want to ask in the interview.

Top of the list should be:
How much have you raised previously, and where?
How did you raise it? Ask them for specifics in grants, events, appeals.
Ask them what their favorite fundraising experience was.
Ask them what management style works best for them.

Then, think of what you want to tell the potential Development Director.
Tell them how you celebrate successes in your organization.
Tell them how you resolve conflict.
Tell them how you help people keep learning, and talk about advancement opportunities in your organization.
Tell them how you supplement their salary with generous time off, flex-time, work-from-home options, full health benefits, and bonuses if they go over goal with an event, grant, or appeal.

If you tell them these five things, and you have the right answers, you are going to have a person who is VERY MOTIVATED to see you succeed, and who will be more likely to be loyal to your organization. Here is more about how to be a better manager and leader in your organization.

Being loyal to a cause and to an organization are two different things. Your candidate may be very loyal to the cause of raising awareness for environmental causes. But if your nonprofit treats them badly, it won’t matter how much they believe in the mission. They will be looking for another job pronto tonto.

Here’s where your potential development director can be found:

Look inside your own organization first. Promote someone who is Development Officer or Development manager right now.

If there isn’t anyone there, put the word out.
If the AFP has a chapter in your town, put a posting on their site.
Post on Craigslist.
Post on

How to weed out the resumes:

People who misspell your name or the name of your nonprofit? Trash them!
People who do not explain their particular connection with your mission and exactly how they fit your qualifications? Trash!
People who have been fired? Still keep them. Because if you are any good in fundraising, chances are you will have been fired. Because a fundraiser needs to learn how to say no, and sometimes bosses will not want to hear that.
People who have a certification? Maybe yes, maybe no. As a famous fundraising guru says,

“… think accurately about the “certifiers” and their purpose as well as their qualifications. Whether university or association, it is about money. In many cases, it was dreamt up by an entrepreneur who is hidden behind its curtain, to get money from insecure, weak-minded people desperate for approval and validation, unable to provide that for themselves.”

So don’t be impressed by letters after a person’s name … how enthusiastic are they about your mission?

Are you looking to hire and put your best foot forward? Let’s get you an incredible candidate. Start here.

If you have any ideas on other things to ask a potential development director, please weigh in below!

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