“I think it’s hard to be a good leader if you haven’t been a follower, and the role of development really prepares you for that,” Wilderotter says. “Also, I think that as development officer you see the myriad interests that donors have — that their support is often motivated by several different factors and what you try and create is those intersections where the donor’s values and interests intersect with the mission and programs of the institution.
“When you are thrust into the leadership of the organization, that skill set is even more critical as you have to coalesce the passion of the individual and combine it with the greater good that will move the institution forward,” he says.
Wilderotter says these skills have helped when dealing with board members who are passionate about particular programs and not as passionate about others. Having worked in development, where he says he faced that sort of challenge every day, he is better equipped to walk that member through the fact that a rising tide will lift all boats.
It also has given him a solid foundation in asking for money, something not all leaders have.
“As development officers we are trained to ask for money and know that the process and act is actually a way that positions strength for the institution, not weakness,” Wilderotter says. “I have seen some great leaders and visionaries who turn to jelly when it comes to asking for money, and their organizations suffer because of that. Because we in development inherently know that the way an organization asks for money often defines their public persona, we start out in our positions with a greater chance of hitting the ground running.”
The Reeves’ deaths and all the rebranding and reshaping of the organization have had an effect on it both internally, in terms of how it views itself, and externally, in terms of how it interacts with constituents.