Six Reasons Why It’s So Hard To Find A Good Development Officer —and Six Ways to Turn That Around

  1. We are incredibly unclear about what we mean by development. Development it’s not one thing but a whole host of things and looking for someone to do all of it is probably suicidal.
  2. We also are clueless about what we want them to achieve, so we have no way to measure success.
  3. Speaking of achievement and measurements, we assign goals that are laughable and ensure failure.
  4. Even if goals were gainable, we don’t provide appropriate resources to get where we want our fundraiser to go.
  5. The board! Need I tell you that they are not partnering with us to raise the money they think we should be raising?
  6. And too many of them are not giving at significant levels!

I could go on, but let’s stop with the kvetching.  What are some things we could consider that would make a difference?

  1. Focus.  Consider what kind of fundraiser are you looking for?  Someone who writes terrific grants?  Throws fabulous special events?  A person who understands direct response?  Maybe someone who works well with individuals who can make larger gifts?  Are you getting the picture?  Sure, there are people who have experience in all of the above but being responsible for all—with their different skill sets, needs, timing—means this person will be ineffective everywhere.  Unless this person is overseeing others, who are doing the myriad fundraising jobs, hire someone whose job is focused on one or maybe two types of fundraising.  The more focused the person can be on one type of Fundraising the more funds that person will raise.
  2. What do they need to accomplish now? Yes, I know. You want them to raise more money than ever before.  But, really, are you looking for someone who going to build your database of prospects? Do you need to upgrade every donor? Maybe increase retention.  In this case, all the above is probably correct, but in what proportions?  If your database consists of 200 people, you are likely needing this person to focus—at least at first—on acquiring new donors.  If your retention rate is worse than the average, which is very dismal indeed, then you need someone who understands donor relations and will build a strong stewardship program. Maybe you actually need someone to create a development plan or put a planned giving program in place.  What, exactly, do you need this person to do in the first 6 months, a year, 18 months?
  3. What resources can you offer? If you have never, ever asked a single individual for a gift and have very few names on your prospect list, don’t expect your brand new development officer to raise $1M. Instead, provide the resources for that person to grow a list—from help with social media to money (and time!) to attend networking events.  Be realistic and match your expectations to what you can provide in the way of support
  4. Pay a reasonable salary. This one is a biggie.  If you hire a development director and pay a salary that might be adequate for an assistant to your assistant, you will get a commensurate level of skill.  It costs money to raise money.  Spend it now so you have it later.
  5. The board. Yes, that again.  Your board needs to be trained—probably by someone other than you and definitely by someone who has skill in this area—as to what it takes it be a highly effective board.  And effective boards are enthusiastic and successful fundraising boards.  There is a lot more than just asking to fundraising. Get your board on board with what that means and how they can be part of the solution.
  6. Board giving. And getting.  Needs to be significant.  If a board member is not participating, get that person off the board.  For that matter, don’t put someone on the board because they might be a large donor.  First, turn them into a large donor then ask them to join your board.




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