Seeking Experienced Development Director

Recently, there have been a number of local job postings for Development Directors. As I mentioned in a previous post, this is no surprise as the turnover in this field is high.

A few weeks ago, I talked with one Executive Director of a nonprofit that is still in its infancy. Luckily, she had the support of her board to add a new position – Director of External Relations. She recognized that she needed help and expertise.

She posted the job and even paid for a sponsored posting on a job board. She received 350 applications! Yes, I said 350. And here’s the thing – she received no applicants with fundraising experience.

After looking at the job posting, I instantly knew why. She had grouped so much under the job that it would turn off those that truly are passionate about fundraising. The duties included marketing, graphic design, and social media, managing capital purchases, documenting food service provider partnerships, and more. This is on top of developing an annual fund program, grant writing, and major gift work.

This is a common problem. When executive directors don’t know who to assign a task to, it gets put under the development director’s purview. And it impacts the quality of applicants you receive when you post a job.

So what can you do to attract the best applicants for your Director of Development position?

  1. Focus the position’s scope. Not every organization can afford to have specialized positions in its development department. You may only be able to afford (or only need) one person to handle all of your fundraising needs. Keep that person’s duties focused on fundraising, and reflect that in your job description.
  2. Be clear about expectations. If you know you need to raise $150,000 from your annual fund program, put that in the job description. Does the person need to manage a portfolio of major donors? How much are they expected to raise from those donors? Good development directors will be result oriented. Do both sides a favor and state your expectations up front.
  3. Develop big, compelling ideas. If you want to move from transactional fundraising to transformational philanthropy, you need to have big ideas that will be compelling to your donors. Your development director can help with this, but it needs to come from organizational leadership.
  4. Create a culture of philanthropy. Fundraising is a team sport. Every staff and board member needs to be involved in fundraising. It may be talking up your organization at a cocktail party or promoting museum membership at an educational workshop. There is nothing more attractive to potential development directors than an organization that truly understands and respects what they do.

Are you having difficulty finding a development director for your organization? I can help distill what you really need, write a job description, recruit applicants, and assist with screening and interviews. Let’s talk.

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Sarah Cortell Vandersypen

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