Development professionals, like physicians, are either generalists or specialists.

With few exceptions, no hire is more important to a nonprofit organization than the individuals tasked with keeping the money flowing: the development team. Yet, the average length of employment for a development professional is 277 days. Why is this?

A study from CompassPoint and the Evelyn and Walter Hass, Jr. Fund, “Underdeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising” found that 25% of respondents with development directors on staff had fired their most recent development director. Half of chief development officers plan to quit within 2 years. Why the revolving door?

Although leadership, strategy and structural fundraising issues are frequently at fault, there is another reason often overlooked: leaders lump too many skill sets into one job description.

Development professionals, like physicians, are either generalists or specialists. Understanding the difference is important—in experience, focus, and pay.

Are you cramming too many skills into your job descriptions? If so, you are setting the candidate and your organization up for failure.

Who are Development GENERALISTS and what should they do?

Chief Development Officer

A Chief Development Officer should have at least a ten year track record of stewardship, solicitation, board development, strategic planning, donor relations, leadership, and management skills. The size of your organization drives the pay scale.

Director of Development

The Director of Development should have seven years under his or her belt, with a track record in the development and execution of annual fundraising campaigns, demonstrable support from individuals, corporations and foundations, and experience with major gift programs and special events.

Development Officer

A Development Officer should have at least five years of experience in mid-size gift solicitation, database management, grant writing (including well-developed general writing skills), event management, and if applicable, membership development.

Grants Writer

A good Grants Writer needs three or more years of experience preparing proposals for corporate, foundation, and government sources, expertise in researching funders, preparing proposals (including well-developed general writing skills), and a proven methodology to maintaining donor communication.

GENERALIST: Pay Scale by Organization’s Budget

Organization Budget $2M – $5M $5M – $10M $10M – $20M $20M – $50M Over $50M
Chief Development Officer $110-130k $130-150k $140-$180k $180-210k $220-270k
Director of Development $90-100k $100-120k $120-140k $120-180k $170-$190k
Development Officer $60-70k $70-80k $80-90k $90-100k $100-110k
Grants Writer $50-60k $60-70k $60-$70k $70-80k $80-90k


Want to talk about this further? Drop us a line or call.

Read Part 2 to learn about Development Specialists and what they do, as well as tips for building effective relationships between development executives and leadership. .

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