Looking for Another Development Position?
I recently responded to my third recruiter’s plea (in a week) for interest in a chief development officer position. They wanted to know if I was interested in a great, next job opportunity. If not, could I recommend anyone to them. This exercise made me think about job tenure in development and related issues. My last four jobs in two different hospital systems lasted seven years and 3.5 years, respectively. I worked for a national organization for two years and my current social service organization position for five years. Thus, my overall job tenure was 4.3 years.
According to a study by Campbell & Company, 75 percent of chief development officers and 62 percent of CEOs cited unrealistic expectations as the reasons for high development turnover. More than 25 percent of the chief development officers surveyed said their organization’s lack of understanding of development was a reason for their short tenure. In addition, chief development officers stated it can be a challenge going from being a practitioner of a specific subset to overseeing a development staff. The survey also noted that the chief development officer must have a positive relationship with the chief financial officer.
In this Dynamic Prospecting article, the author says that part of the problem of tenure is that development professionals are evaluated by others and not by knowledge of the development profession. Examples of poor evaluation processes include being solely judged on solicitations, lack of expertise in judging others, lack of knowing the whole development picture and not appreciating the number of various tasks one must perform besides fundraising.
The author goes on to cite several solutions to the problem, such as giving your development officer a fair and accurate evaluation, educating the board to support development efforts and staff, providing resources for development staff to thrive, bringing another development officer on your board to assist, plus setting realistic goals based upon past performance.
When evaluating why fundraising professionals leave their jobs, Penelope Burk, CEO and founder of Cygnus Applied Research Inc., found through a research study that salary was a major factor in leaving. Those under 30 years of age usually leave for career advancement, and with flattened organizational structures increasing, additional mid-level development professionals leave their job for greater advancement.
In her book “Donor-Centered Leadership,” Burk suggested that decision-makers and managers extend staff tenure and reduce the crippling cost of rapid turnover by recognizing the willingness and then necessity of moving people up. She also found in research that one in two senior fundraising directors will be retiring within the next seven years, and younger staff will need to be ready to fill these positions.
When examining tenure for fundraising positions, one must also examine the fundraiser themselves. In the article titled, “Why Some Fundraisers Succeed and Others Fail,” an examination was made of the qualities or characteristics that separate the fundraisers who succeed from those who fail. A multimillionaire nonprofit benefactor Paul J. Meyer interviewed more than 30 donors who have given millions to nonprofits. He asked them about the qualities that made fundraising professionals successful.
These attributes were:
- Sincere relationship oriented
- Personal Integrity
- Knowledge of their charity
- Clearly defined goals
- Regular communication
- Assurance of cost effectiveness
- Matching gifts
- Deserving cause
- Shared vision
- Common interest
- Quality presentation
Negative qualities of unsuccessful fundraisers include:
- Lack of personal relationship
- Negative characteristics portrayed
- Lack of sincerity and belief
- Poor communication
- Lack of clear goals
- Lack of integrity
- Perceived ungratefulness
- Desperation letters
- Pressure selling
- Lack of knowledge
- Lack of Interest
- Inappropriate appreciation
- Forgetting the obvious
- Wasting time
Having a donor’s perspective can help make the difference between success and failure as a fundraiser. This knowledge can also certainly enhance or reduce job tenure. I would hope most fundraising professionals would not take a position like a cab driver with the tenure clock being constantly watched. You need at least a year to understand your position, the organization, plus your portfolio. You need another year to master organizational priorities and strategies to secure significant gifts, and another year to master internal and external relationships.
The length of every development job tenure will depend upon year to year job performance, relationship with your direct supervisor and changing organizational culture toward development. If all factors are green, that is good. If it is yellow or red, attempt to make it green. We work in a very dynamic and very competitive profession. Strive for quality and quantity of time in your jobs. That is important and will be evaluated by recruiters as you seek future jobs. Remember, if you have a long career, the job market overall will ebb and flow like the stock market. If you can, seek to control your job moves. Unfortunately, in this business some moves may be made for you. It is the nature of this business.
Amazingly, as I was typing the last sentence of this blog post, another recruiter contacted me with two new job opportunities.
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 email@example.com or 317-224-1029.