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  • Marty Zimmerman

Development Staff: An Endangered Species Pt. 4

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

Team Work graphic of gears

How can nonprofits prevent the extinction of good Development Directors?

In our last blog, I explained that the decline of the Development Director has been coming for a long time and is a serious issue. Let’s say that you want to promote someone from within for the position. This section focuses on what can be done within an organization to keep good people. Here are five ways to retain your amazing Development Director:

1. Manage expectations and be realistic - Most Executive Directors approach the hiring of a Development Director with the expectation that the person will raise most of the funds necessary to keep the ship afloat. No one person can do everything, so keep expectations realistic! Executive Directors also have to support a work-life balance for ALL staff to prevent burnout, support long-term career goals, and retain team members in the long term.

2. Fundraising has to be a team sport - Success includes building a fundraising team that includes the Executive Director, Board members, the leadership team, and program staff actively involved in fundraising. Make the saying, "Everyone is a fundraiser!" your organization's mantra and when a program person, social media intern, or member of the janitorial staff thinks of a fundraising idea or makes an important connection, celebrate it so everyone knows and is hopefully inspired to look for opportunities.

3. Invest in the person both financially and through extensive training - The Denver job market is incredibly competitive, so your benefits package must be competitive even for an internal candidate. Additionally, adding the benefit of a coach/mentor or professional development into your budget is vital to keeping someone happy. Finally, give the Development Director the tools needed to succeed: support, access and time. Without these three things, no one will succeed.

4. Connect the Development Director to the programming - For smaller nonprofits especially, engaging the Development Director in the mission and programming – and not just fundraising – is vitally important. If the person is passionate about the work, involvement in the programming will keep that passion alive.

5. The Executive Director needs to manage the Board’s expectations in advance - The Executive Director needs to communicate with the Board before someone is hired that a good Development Director does not mean that Board members no longer have to think about fundraising; it means they will now be thinking about it all the time. The Development Director’s job is NOT to take on all of the responsibility and be held to public account for it.

Next week will provide some guidance for nonprofits seeking an external candidate for a Development Director position.

This is the fourth post in a five-part blog series that explains the cracks in personnel systems of nonprofits and how to address the lack of qualified, long-term development staff.

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