5 Tips for Hiring a Director of Development

CompassPoint and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund produced an excellent report entitled Under Developed: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising about the high turnover of fundraising professionals and the reasons that contribute to this situation in the nonprofit sector.

Nearly one in three executive directors were “lukewarm about, or dissatisfied with, the performance of their current development directors”. A quarter of all executive directors surveyed reported the previous director of development was fired. Since directors of development are crucial members of nonprofit management teams and are responsible for executing the strategy to raise the money that keeps an organization’s doors open, it is critically important to have an alignment between the organization and the individual in this position.

When seeking to hire a new director of development, executive directors, board member and others should be mindful of the following:

1)    Most development professionals are enthusiastic and motivated by different missions on a personal level. It is imperative that board members, volunteers and donors get a sense of the energy and passion of a director of development as it relates to the mission of the organization. Seek professionals who have an interest in the mission of the organization as demonstrated in previous positions or in volunteer opportunities.

2)    Directors of development are typically “people” persons. Look for an individual who is comfortable in his or her own skin. The vetting process should extend beyond an interview with the executive director and a board member or two. With a finalist, invite the individual to meet with members of the staff in a group setting, and if possible, invite them to an event. You are looking to see how they interact with others in one-on-one and group settings.

3)    Be clear what skills you need in a director of development. If you are looking for a director of development who will be primarily a grant writer, it is very different than someone who will be seeking major gifts and also managing a diversified fundraising portfolio. If you seek to multiple sources of income, look for someone who has a demonstrated track record of raising money in each revenue stream (e.g. major gifts, grants, Internet, events, etc.).

4)    If the new director of development will have management responsibilities, ensure this individual has had experience in the past. If you are willing to hire someone who has no management experience, be prepared to groom and develop the director to be a good manager. Many times excellent fundraisers are felled because of their management skills.

5)    Once you are comfortable the person you are about to hire will be a good fit, be prepared to give the individual the required time to be excellent at their job. Expect a plan within a reasonable period of time with measurable benchmarks and metrics for the coming year and then allow the director the leeway and support to achieve the results.

About the author: Wayne Elsey is the Founder and CEO of Wayne Elsey Enterprises, author of the book, Almost Isn’t Good Enough, and Founder and former CEO of Soles4Souls. 

Originally published by Third Sector Today and shared with permission.

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