Development Staff: An Endangered Species Pt. 3

May 31, 2017

 

 

How the disappearance of qualified Development Directors impacts the fundraising ecosystem

 

 

In our last blog, I discussed how the decline of the Development Director has been coming for a long time and is directly impacted by supply and demand and cutthroat competition for resources.

 

Many of the issues facing organizations seeking good Development Directors also affect other development positions. Nearly all Development Associate positions today are filled by Millennials. Younger development staff have specific career goals and require pathways clarifying how and when they will grow, gain experience, and move into leadership positions. The work environment is vital to their success. They want to help the world, but are not loyal to only one nonprofit’s way of doing this. They are also a very mobile population in search of a variety of experiences. Often, traditional organizational structures are not conducive to younger staff’s long-term goals Their turnover rates are similar to those of Development Directors if they do not have the opportunities listed above, which are more difficult to provide at smaller nonprofits. Two of these positions are being affected more than most: event planners and grant writers.

 

Event planners plan and execute events, requiring a creative and detail-oriented professional. Most Denver nonprofits include events in their fundraising strategies; thus, event planners are vital to the success of an organization. The challenge nonprofits face is that event planners do not always possess all of the vital skills to make events successful. A key drawback is that many event planners are not able or willing to solicit sponsorship's or auction items. Thus, these responsibilities fall on other staff and ultimately the Development Directors, adding to the list of ever-increasing job responsibilities. Event planners plan and execute events, requiring a creative and detail-oriented professional. Most Denver nonprofits include events in their fundraising strategies; thus, event planners are vital to the success of an organization. The challenge nonprofits face is that event planners do not always possess all of the vital skills to make events successful. A key drawback is that many event planners are not able or willing to solicit sponsorships or auction items. Thus, these responsibilities fall on other staff and ultimately the Development Directors, adding to the list of ever-increasing job responsibilities.

 

The demise of the grant writer began with the advent of the computer age. In this modern culture, writing styles vary drastically. Styles range from creative writing, academic writing, twitter/social media writing, and numerous other styles. Finding people who can write persuasively, clearly, and articulately, especially in a structured application, is increasingly difficult. The best grant writers can work within the structures and yet be persuasive, personable, have attention to detail, and be a salesperson on site visits with potential funders.

 

Cultivating individual donors in a competitive market like Denver is time-consuming, leaving many organizations to move toward and become dependent on grant dollars. Foundations receive hundreds of applications and only have limited dollars to spend. Therefore, the competition for a good grant writer is also fierce. Likewise, poaching is commonplace.

 

In many cases, Development Directors are stuck in a position where they have to fill the gaps in their development teams, and when they do hire someone good, they know that they will have go through the process and hire again in the near future. This creates a constant cycle of filling a role temporarily, searching for staff, hiring and training someone, losing them after 6-24 months, and then repeating the process, which leads to ongoing dissatisfaction and burnout in the position.

 

Next week’s blog will focus on possible solutions to Colorado’s development staff shortage.

 

This is the third 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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