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A Development Director Needs More Than “a Smile and a Shoeshine,” But It’s a Good Start

No matter how high-tech the tools, funds are raised person-to-personThis is the era of high-tech delivery of information in an instant. The Internet is accessible from any telephone line, and lap-top computers let us take the facts and figures—all the facts and figures—to wherever they’re needed. Development professionals must master this technology which lets us massage estate planning scenarios, target solicitation mailings, and develop campaign giving plans. But, we must also remember that, no matter how high-tech the tools, funds are raised person-to-person.

In Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,” Willy Loman’s rejection of new technology, when he encounters a voice recorder for the first time, is part of his slow and agonizing deterioration. The only thing he knows—selling—is slipping from his grasp, and he tries to tighten his grip on it by clinging to the past. The times are changing and Willy isn’t. But that doesn’t mean that the experience of a lifetime of selling is no longer valid when he declares, “The man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead. Be liked and you will never want.” Willy is talking about being a salesman and having the proper temperament for the job, but he might just as well have been talking about Development Directors.

Those of us who carry the responsibility of seeing to it that money is raised for non-profit organizations would do well to bear in mind Willy Loman”s failure to change with the times. But we should also remember what he says about the process of selling. You won’t be good at selling widgets, or orchestras, or social services unless you have the temperament and the attitude for the job.

Somebody’s Got to Do the Job

While not all non-profit organizations have professional fund-raising officers on staff, any organization that counts on contributed income to provide a substantial portion of its budget should have a professional development director. In small organizations, the development director could conceivably be a volunteer. However, the important thing is that within even the smallest of non-profits, someone is given as his or her primary organization responsibility the coordination and implementation of contributed income programs. A development director’s principal charge is to create numerous, efficient, and compelling opportunities for donors to support an organization and to make the experience of giving satisfying and rewarding.

The Many “Hats” Do Not Always Fit

It is not a good idea for an organization’s executive director to also fill the role of development director. If the organization has a valid mission, the executive director has a full-time role to play in coordinating and carrying out that mission. Fund-raising needs to be someone’s primary concern. To illustrate that point, look at the following breakdown of the time spent by a generic development director on various important activities:

Development Director Time Breakdown

Plan fund-raising campaigns and activities 25%
Manage fund-raising campaigns and activities 25%
Recruit and train volunteer fund-raising leadership 15%
Identify and cultivate prospective donors 10%
Stay on top of advancements and changes that are pertinent to raising money within the community, to the organization's mission and programs, and to the development profession 10%
Forecast and evaluate the potential of fund-raising campaigns and activities 5%
Produce solicitation materials and train volunteer solicitors for fund-raising campaigns 5%
Manage personnel within the development department and interact with other organization staff members 5%

Does this look like a job that can be done well as an adjunct to another?

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