So You Want to Be a Director of Development?
As my career in nonprofit development evolved, my goal was to be a director of development. My first title in the nonprofit world was associate director of development. I learned over time that there was a great deal of experience and knowledge needed to be elevated to the position of director of development.
The director of development is the senior fundraising manager at a nonprofit organization. The director, who collaborates closely with the chief financial officer, is responsible for securing nonprofit revenue from individuals, corporations, organizations, associations and foundations through a variety of means. The director of development manages the fundraising process. This position is also responsible for outreach, and this could take a variety of forms. The development director must be concerned with growth of the organization and maximizing the nonprofit’s profitability and profile.
Specifically, a development director implements and manages an organization’s fundraising efforts. This includes developing an annual fundraising strategy, forming key relationships with constituencies, identifying funding opportunities, marketing funding opportunities and reporting fundraising results to stakeholders. Holders of this position need a bachelor’s degree and experience on the job. Education received should be in the disciplines of nonprofit administration, public administration, communications and business.
Acquiring a master’s degree is strongly encouraged. Most development practitioners have at least four years of development experience before pursuing a director of development position. Employers favor hiring professionals with Certified Fund Raising Executive credentials. It is necessary that director of development professionals have strong written and verbal communication skills, people skills, compassion, organization, marketing skills and computer literacy.
Potential development directors should have the ability to change with the times. This individual must create numerous, efficient and compelling opportunities for donors to support an organization. They must make the donor experience satisfying and rewarding. People need servant leader temperament to succeed. They also need to forgo the ego. It is about the organization.
A suggested time management breakdown for this position is as follows:
- 25% planning fundraising activities
- 25% managing fundraising activities
- 15% recruiting and training volunteers
- 10% identify and cultivate prospects/donors
- 10% stay on top of changes in environment
- 5% forecast fundraising campaigns
- 5% produce solicitation materials/Strategy
- 5% manage development personnel
The development director is essentially the captain of your organization’s fundraising ship. You must have an experienced leader in this role, or your overall funding and management will suffer. The ideal development director will be responsible for numerous duties at the same time. Therefore, required skills may revolve around technology, planning, budgeting, communication and soliciting success. This initiative-taker must have superb people skills and the ability to have job flexibility.
The director of development must build internal and external relationships and be initiative-taking, deadline driven multitaskers. Director of development responsibilities include collaborating with a board of directors and the communications team to establish a fundraising plan. They must be able to establish a comprehensive ever-growing network, manage special events, and direct prospect research while managing every facet of the fundraising process. This individual needs to travel, work evenings and weekends, and be mission-oriented.
If you interview candidates for the development director position, keep in mind the following major questions to ask:
- How would you react if a donor questions your integrity?
- Give me an example of three of your most successful fundraising events?
- What methods do you employ to attract new donors?
- What is a case for support and what do you think it would be for this position?
- Are you proficient with social media as a fundraising tool?
- Could you give me a detailed description of your most significant ask and what was the result?
- How would other staff members describe you?
- What do you know about this organization?
- Why are you the=” candidate for this position?
- How do you prioritize your time management?
Terri Lee Freeman, president of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, shared the key attributes needed for a director of development to be successful in the nonprofit arena. She mentioned being a developer of relationships, show the donor the benefit derived from their gift, demonstrate your expertise, be fearless and persistent, do research about the donor, always communicate, highlight organizational goals, sustain donor engagements and always encourage your CEO to develop relationships with current and potential donors.
For all the reasons given, I wanted to be a director of development. This position over time transformed me, and it will transform you as you make a difference in the lives of people and organizations.
Duke Haddad, Ed.D., CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis. He also serves as president of Duke Haddad and Associates LLC and is a freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO since 2008.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration plus a dissertation on donor characteristics. He received a master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis on public administration plus a thesis on annual fund analysis. He secured a bachelor’s degree (cum laude) with an emphasis on marketing/management. He has done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
Duke has received the Fundraising Executive of the Year Award, from the Association of Fundraising Professionals Indiana Chapter. He also was given the Outstanding West Virginian Award, Kentucky Colonel Award and Sagamore of the Wabash Award from the governors of West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana, respectively, for his many career contributions in the field of philanthropy. He has maintained a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) designation for three decades.