Development Goals and Transition Ownership
I have worked as a director of development or in similar roles for many organizations. Throughout the years, when I took over a position, I had to start somewhere. Sadly, transitions in staff replacements in the nonprofit world typically do not lend themselves to smooth transitions of information. I typically received no information from the person I replaced or from others left behind. In fact, in one case when I became executive director of a foundation, the former executive director who agreed to meet with me never showed up for the transition meeting. I saw him 15 years later.
I believe it is imperative to share information if at all possible when a transition occurs. If nothing else, what about all of the staff, volunteers, donor relationships and good will at risk?
In addition, how often have you inherited a development committee by default? In many cases, the development committee is thrown together like children selected for a pickup basketball team. The best players are chosen first and the least talented last. One board chair told me that the development committee consists of all of the board members that do not show up for meetings. Another board chair said, "Our weakest committee is our development committee," and yet, the board's No. 1 goal was to raise funds for the organization. Another fundraising board was proud of the fact it had no committees, including a development committee. This does not make sense when you exist to generate time, talent and treasure.
I recently made a presentation to a development committee as part of a detailed development audit that I was asked to direct. I gave the group the usual pep talk. I asked the committee members if they had ever identified, rated or screened prospects, plus opened doors for engagement. They said that was not their focus as it was a staff responsibility. I then asked if staff had discussed priorities for funding with them. They gave me the deer-in-the-headlights look. I remembered at that point the development committee chair had asked me to prepare remarks for him to give at the meeting because he was not engaged with the development director. All of these red flags showed me that no one totally owned fundraising or understood his or her specific "ownership role" in the development goal process.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.