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When Should a Non-Profit Organization Hire its First Development Director? Part 2

When Should a Non-Profit Organization  Hire its First Development Director? Part 2


So, how do you know from within an organization when and if you should hire a development director? The answer is simple, and it starts with knowing the costs of running the organization as it carries out its mission as set out in the its long-range strategic plan. It continues with the development of a fund-raising plan.

Next comes the assurance that the board will commit to their responsibility to see that the money is raised. Then an assessment of resources is needed to see if the tools are present or can be developed to carry out the plans.

An assessment of an organization’s fund-raising readiness is essential. The article that the preceding link points to contains a checklist that will help you realize where your organization stands on the continuum of fund-raising readiness. Take the time to review that checklist, and I think you will find you have made giant strides down the path of determining whether your organization is ready for a development director.

Explore the checklist in the light of your fund-raising plan, and adapt it accordingly.

Ask yourself:

  • What are we doing that we could do better?
  • What should we be doing that we aren’t?
  • Can we do those things?
  • Who in our organization, on our board, or among our friends can do them?
  • When do we need to do them?
  • What will they cost?

Try this process, and I think you’ll get a good idea of how far you can safely and effectively stretch your organization’s resources and volunteers. You’ll be able to see if you’re trying to stretch them too far, and that will help you make the determination of whether to hire a development director.

Are You Ready to Commit the Resources Necessary for a Professional Development Director and Effort?

A final word on hiring that first development director:  too often the question of whether to put a professional on staff turns on, not the money an organization needs to raise, but the money it will have to pay a development director. And too often, even when an organization decides it needs a fund-raising professional, it fails to commit the resources— pay and supporting budget—needed for that pro to succeed. Too little pay and too little budget will invariably deliver too little development director. You get what you pay for, or perhaps more accurately you don’t get what you don’t pay for.

It makes no sense to hamstring an organization by authorizing the hiring of a development director and then setting pay and budget at a level that will not allow the organization to recruit someone qualified to carry out the job.

Nor does it make sense to ask someone to do more than he/she is capable of. Will your development director be able to devote all of his/her time to fund-raising, or are you expecting other functions to be performed?

A development director is not a communications director or a marketing director. Yes, there are people who have skill sets to manage all of those functions. But they will not be equally good at carrying out each. The temperament and expectations of PR professionals and development professionals are different enough that it is almost impossible someone could star in both disciplines. Plus it is the rare organization that looks to hire its first development director and at the same time set up a multi-person development department. Finally, it is even more rare for an organization struggling with the question of whether to go pro or not to be willing to pay for an all-star.

In a Nutshell

In the end, the question of when and if to hire that first development director is pretty straight forward. You hire a development director when the organization:

  • Has fund-raising needs that can no longer be met by its existing staff, board members, and volunteers.
  • Has a plan and is ready to take on the responsibility of that enlarged fund-raising effort.
  • Is willing to commit to the compensation and budget required to attract a professional capable of carrying out the specific job for the specific organization.

Want to take a closer look at how FundRaiser can help you answer these vital development questions? 

Give us a call at 800-880-3454 or register for an online tour

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