5 Ways You Can Help Your Director of Development Succeed

Do you find yourself caught up in an endless cycle of disappointing fundraising results and Director of Development turnover?  The cause could be a lack of effective DOD selection and support.  So what are you to do?  If you can’t afford experience, look for potential.  Then set your DOD up to succeed.  Provide professional development opportunities and realistic expectations—and engage the organization’s leadership in the fundraising process.  If you’re hesitant about committing limited time and resources to fundraising, consider the alternative.  Do you want to continue the cycle of disappointing outcomes or do you want to break out and achieve fundraising results that will bring organizational stability and new opportunities?

5 Steps for Director of Development Success

1. Create a success-focused DOD job description.  

Don’t overload the position with responsibilities that have nothing to do with raising money.  And be wary of special events.  They consume immense resources and frequently fail to produce a significant net return.  Focus DOD duties instead on securing a steady stream of annual gifts and on supporting the ED and board members in cultivating and soliciting major donors.  

2. If you can’t afford to hire a highly experienced candidate, select your DOD on the basis of basic skills and fundraising potential.  

Choose someone who is organized, personable and a good communicator (written and verbal).  Then see that your candidate is appropriately educated and coached.  Look for a nonprofit support organization that offers short courses in fundraising.  If such a resource is unavailable, give your DOD an opportunity to read books on fundraising and draw upon appropriate online educational resources.  Then look for mentoring or coaching support.  Professional associations like AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) often operate mentoring programs.  You might also seek support from a professional fundraising coach.

3. Set realistic fundraising goals.  

Base them on previous fundraising results, not on the amount needed to balance the budget.  And once a goal is set, don’t raise it, even if unexpected circumstances widen the gap between income and expense as the year unfolds.  Looking to the DOD to fill the gap is a recipe for failure.

4. Create a fundraising-focused board.   

Educate them by including a discussion of fundraising activities on every board agenda—not just a rundown of the numbers.  Set an expectation that they give and that they support the fundraising program in some way.  A handful of active solicitors will suffice, but all board members should help identify prospects, make introductions and perhaps host donor receptions.

5. As the ED, you should devote an appropriate portion of your time to donor cultivation and solicitation.  (Carve it out and don’t give it up.)  

Unless you have a seasoned development officer who can operate on the front lines, your DOD’s role should be to support you and your board in your efforts to cultivate and solicit donors.  As the DOD achieves standing (through success and longevity), s/he can assume more of a solicitor’s role.

Fundraising doesn’t require complexity or a heavy financial investment to succeed.  You can hire a DOD who is a diamond in the rough if you give that person a fundraising-focused job description, realistic goals and appropriate professional development support.  Then task that person with bringing in annual gifts and supporting major giving activities.  If you do it right, you’ll break the cycle of failure, achieve financial stability and secure the resources required to take advantage new opportunities.

If you have questions or want additional information, contact me at (540) 710-0230.

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