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.
Administration, staff, board and volunteers all have ownership responsibilities in the development process. A good board has several key committees, which begin with the nominations committee. The key to a good development committee is having a variety of passionate volunteers who have experience in the fundraising process plus various skill sets in dealing with corporations, foundations, associations, organizations and individuals. This committee, along with staff, must understand and own priorities; determine prospects; and implement a strategy for success in the acquisition and retention of annual, major and planned-gift donors. The competition is keen, and the stakes are high. Donors are more demanding, and accountability is not a luxury but a necessity. Having a dynamic development committee should be the first thought, not an afterthought.
When I left a position at a hospital foundation, I created several pages of notes that included information on relationships and suggested strategies going forward, plus additional information. I met several times with the "new person" in that role and shared this information with her. Several years later, the hospital received significant gifts from those I cultivated with volunteer help during my tenure, and several board members I recruited eventually became leaders of the board.
I encourage everyone in our profession to do the same — not for personal gratification, but for the sake of the institution you served with pride at one point in your career. You should "own" the important responsibility of keeping the transition information and stream flowing.
F. Duke Haddad is currently associate director of development, director of campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. In addition, he is also president of Duke Haddad and Associates, LLC in Fishers, Indiana.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the past 12 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.