Ten Requisites to Retain Development Directors

YAegGCLhvo0aJugTGHimYcWBFvZBeakoqI8_Avwh8p8-1 A Post from James V. Toscano

Since the release of the Underdeveloped Study, much has been written here and elsewhere about the state of development and fundraising offices and people in nonprofit organizations.

We have been somewhat shocked by what we read in the report on short tenures, distrust, misunderstanding, and intentions to terminate and to leave. All in all, the report gives a picture of a disaster happening before our eyes.

We know there are many places where this is not happening, yet we also know a number of nonprofits where elements of this picture are present, some in abundance.

Two previous pieces on what Boards and candidates should do in the hiring process have appeared here and here, but what about those already on board? How do we both energize development directors and how do we retain the successful ones over a longer period of time? There are ways to correct what I call the “profound misunderstanding.”

The Profound Misunderstanding

An increasingly common situation, which is the underlying reason for much of what is reported in Underdeveloped, occurs where there is lack of consensus, misunderstanding, lack of agreement and disagreement about the roles of the Board, CEO and Development Director in the development process, including prospect identification, cultivation, solicitation, stewardship and much more. Who does what, when and how needs to be clear and clearly accepted by all groups.

The ten requisites to retain DD will help retain productive executives and staff, as well as demonstrate those who, in fact, should move on. By close adherence by Board and CEO to all ten and by building these requisites into the organizational culture, these misunderstandings will fade into oblivion.

The Ten Requisites

Organizational development research informs us that there are ways to motivate employees to achieve and surpass goals and to retain them. Fifty years of experience in the field produces many thoughts and insights. Here are my ten: 

1.  Ensure the head of development is a full and equal member of the executive team, acknowledged and respected by colleagues as the substantive expert in the nonprofit’s development efforts, for which everyone in the organization is responsible. Development is not a silo; it is part and parcel of everything a nonprofit does. (See We’re All Development Officers Now!)

2.  Trust. The organization must invest high levels of trust and involvement in development, from which the needed resources for significant survival will ensue.

3.  Motivate and ensure full engagement by all involved. As the Gallup Organization reminds us, fully engaged employees are the basis which drives successful, performance driven and outcome based fundraising.

4.  Establish clear levels of responsibility and accountability, with specific roles and measurable goals. Use the strategic planning and development planning efforts to achieve consensus about  goals and roles among Board, executives and the DD. (see Eye of the Needle and How Many Board Members Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb?)

5.  Insure that the development department is properly and adequately staffed, paid market compensation, provided with state-of-the-art equipment and materials and offered educational opportunities and advancement. Insure that employment engenders pride and confidence, as well as stability.

6.  Base variable compensation on the agreed-upon roles and goals, which go well beyond funds raised. Include organizational leadership, employee and constituent satisfaction, continuing learning and continuous quality improvement. Ensure full recognition of achievement in as many ways as possible.

7.  Actively involve the head of development in all planning efforts, departmental as well as organizational so that there is input about potential resources while building expectations and knowledge of ambitions, goals and objectives.

8.  Optimize the development team by having them do what they do best, another lesson from Gallup. Better to offer opportunity to hone strength than to train to cover weaknesses. Clearly, the team skills must be those for maximum effort and it should be built with that mix in mind.

9.   Make sure that the director and employees feel and see that the organization cares about them as human beings, as professionals, as members of a family and as community participants, by building into work lives the flexibility and opportunity to achieve individual needs and goals.

10.  Listen to all of the organization’s various constituencies and follow-up on ideas and contributions for the good of all. In this age of messaging and communicating at the speed of light, where organizational boundaries are fluid, chain of command and span of control no longer work. We need to build leadership the bottom up, ensuring corporate goals are the consensus and corporate culture embraces and reflects the above requisites. Development will flourish in this environment.

  1. David Therkelsen Says: April 29, 2013 at 10:09 pm

    More great common sense from Jim T. As a three-time nonprofit CEO – and two of the three did significant fundraising – I’d add an “11th Commandment”: CEO must be second-most important member of the development team. Only the CEO can authentically represent the mission and aspirations of the agency to potential major-gift prospects. And any CEO who doesn’t have the passion or enthusiasm or whatever you want to call it to fulfill this role should consider another line of work. Yet even the most avid CEO needs the DD to construct the grand strategy.

  2. Julie Stroud Says: April 29, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    Great column, Jim. I have to agree with David in spirit, if not quite to the letter. The CEO is an essential member of the development team, but if that person (and the organization) is going to be really successful, he/she deputizes a larger group of people who can deliver the mission and messaging. It IS essential that the CEO be out talking to everyone, because donors are investing in the stability and leadership of the organization, too. But the truly successful CEO makes development an organic function to be carried out by the board, staff and passionate major donors. (You pointed this out, too) Those donors are the key to peer-to-peer major gifts.

  3. If I had my way, I’d declare:
    The Chair of the Board is the chief development volunteer.
    The CEO is the chief development officer.
    The DD is the chief of development operations–planning, drafting the development strategy and plan, managing the plan to outcome, organizing, recruiting, running the department, making it all happen..

  4. Reblogged this on Carson Harper.

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