Why do nonprofits hire development directors who have never done development? Perhaps this is an unfair and/or rhetorical question but seriously I hear that at least once a month. Of course, when I hear it, I can’t really blurt out what I am thinking, I mean I could but I’m not sure it would help. But in my mind I am thinking things like: “well, the executive director hates fundraising, so this should go well” (insert eye roll), or “would they hire a book keeper who never did book keeping, what is wrong with them??”, or “dang, this person can really sell anything, why did they switch careers?”
Okay enough ranting. I am here to say, to plead, if you are considering hiring a development director for the first time please call me. Or call any competent development director in your area and talk to them about what you need to look for before you start. There is a lot to consider and making the wrong choice for the wrong reasons is a big problem across the nonprofit sector.
You can find resources online but one area I always notice missing is the clarification of organizational capacity to do development. What do I mean? Well, if the executive director doesn’t have time, desire, talent or care to do fundraising: you better be hiring a 20 year veteran who hopefully has been an executive director and can fully support the executive director and be emotionally competent enough to give them the credit for all successes.
Or say, you have no support staff or volunteer corps to help with fundraising: don’t hire the person who comes with huge amounts of success with special events because they will fail when they try to repeat that success without the staffing capacity to deal with the time sucking nature of special events.
Or say, you have a board chair who is the past major gifts officer at Yale and they want to board to step up immediately: you better find a person who had worked well with boards and gets what it means to enable them well.
Or say, you need to start from scratch, and you don’t know what should happen first: please don’t hire someone who knows less that you do, so you feel better. Just don’t do it, you and your nonprofit will suffer, a lot.
Phew that all felt kind of ranty…but seriously, call me, I can help, and you will glad you did.