top of page
  • Marty Zimmerman

Four Unique Things to Do in Your First Four Weeks as a New Development Staff Person

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

Development staff person giving a thumbs up

So you’re excited to start your next development position. Or, conversely, you’ve just hired a new Development Director and you’re pumped that this person will help your organization raise tons of money and world peace will finally be achieved!

Note: This blog is written to the new development staff person, but it applies just as equally to the organization who has hired the new development staff member, because you have a short window of opportunity to get “free consulting” from this new staff person. Read below to see how…

Of course, you want to spend the first month in your position getting to know your new organization by introducing yourself to your new board members, fellow staff members, and key donors, spending time reading past grants and other written materials, and reviewing your financials to see if you’ve just signed up for the impossible (hopefully not!).

But also YOU, the new development staff person, have an opportunity in the first four weeks of your new job to bring an outsider’s perspective to your work. Soon you will know your new organization inside and out. You will be so immersed in the language of early childhood education or feline rescue that when you describe what you do all day to your significant other and they go “

huh,” you’ll realize that jargon is all you speak. Thus, capitalize on your newness and FRESH approach while you still have it.

  1. First, interview your fellow staff members AND key donors to figure out what the organization does and what parts of that work are of most interest to a donor. Why should someone give to this program? What makes your organization unique? How do you describe what the organization does to someone who doesn’t work in the field? It’s easier to do this as an outsider who hasn’t been living and breathing the work for years. Take the time to create the language that you can go back to when you’re writing successful proposals for raising money in your new job.

  2. Next, review your grant boilerplate language (or common grant application). Does it make sense to someone who knows nothing about your organization? Can you get rid of jargon?

  3. Then, use your “new” card. You are in the honeymoon phase of your new work relationship (i.e. everything you do, and that your organization does, is wonderful). Is there a change you want to see that you can push for now because you can do no wrong? Perhaps colleagues have expressed a desire for something to be done differently? This is a great conversation to have with your Executive Director and, separately, with your development team. Helping others now will help you in the future.

  4. Finally, act like a consultant. Dig into your new organization’s systems and ask tough questions. Find out what’s working and what’s not; and use your fresh perspective to devise solutions. Use this time to have crucial conversations with leadership about what you’ve discovered and your thoughts on solutions.

What have you done to make the most of your first weeks in a new job? Anything you wish you’d done? Share with ZIM and comment below. Thank you!

bottom of page