The success of your development professional might lie with you.

Development professionals tend to have tall challenges and short tenure. Why is this? Surprisingly, it goes back to understanding funding sources. Once you understand that, you’ll get why hiring a development specialist or a development generalist is so important to an organization’s bottom line—and retention.

Generalists have an overall understanding of all aspects of fundraising while a specialist has a laser-like focus on particular revenue streams.  For example, if most of the organization’s funding is achieved through major gifts, corporate donations, foundation grants, or special events, it’s wise to hire a professional who has direct experience and is a specialist in raising funds through those channels. If the organization has a wider range of funding sources available, a development generalist can cover most, if not all, of the different levels of giving.

Accurately identifying the sources of a nonprofit’s current and projected funding is one of the single, most important steps an organization can take prior to hiring development staff. Studies show that it’s also one of the most valuable exercises relative to keeping the new development hire.

So what goes wrong?

The most common mistakes in hiring someone for a key development role:

  • Not getting buy-in from key stakeholders (CEO and Board Members)
  • Lack of understanding by the CEO/Executive Director as to the different fundraising roles, and how a development professional gets the organization to goal
  • Hiring someone who is not prepared to step into a greater role, or, conversely, is too senior for the role given
  • Unrealistic expectations

This leads to a majority of fundraising professionals leaving an organization within 1-2 years. Why the exodus?

  1. Salary not appropriate to the market
  2. Weak compensation along with a lack of professional development opportunities
  3. The organization’s culture doesn’t support fundraising
  4. Job titles do not reflect the primary responsibilities
  5. Too many job skills are combined with the primary role of fundraising development (communications, marketing & external affairs being frequent examples)
  6. Burnout—in many companies, the development executive is the only fundraiser
  7. Lack of teamwork and mentoring, combined with unrealistic expectations, leading to a sense of isolation

Who are Development SPECIALISTS and what should they do?

Director of Major Gifts

A Director of Major Gifts should have 7+ years of experience developing multi-year, large, gift-giving opportunities, with a track record of prospect research, developing proposals, and organizing philanthropic events.

Director of Corporate & Foundations (Institutional Giving)

The Director of Corporate & Foundations, or Institutional Giving, should have 5+ years of experience in solicitation and securing gifts from corporations, foundations, and government, alongside experience in the research and identification of prospects.

Director of Special Events

The Director of Special Events should have 5+ years of overseeing all aspects of an event calendar for donor recognition and fundraising cultivation, and manage vendors, budgets, and volunteers related to philanthropic events.

Director of Membership

The Director of Membership should have 5+ years of experience developing strategic sales plans, building partnerships with appropriate organizations and individuals, a track record of increasing sales and attendance revenue and be proficient in web-based campaigns.

SPECIALIST: Pay Scale by Organization’s Budget

Organization Budget $2M – $5M $5M – $10M $10M – $20M $20M – $50M Over $50M
Director of Major Gifts NA $90-100k $100-120k $110-130k $130-160k
Director of Corporate & Foundations, Institutional Giving NA $80-90k $90-100k $100-120k $120-$150k
Director of Special Events $60-70k $70-80k $75-90k $80-90k $90-100k
Director of Membership $70-80k $80-100k $90-110k $110-120k $120-160k


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

This is Part 2 of a series. Read about Development Generalists here.

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