I Never Did Fundraising Before…But I Did Marketing So…

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.


Succession Planning. How Many Times and Ways Can It Go Wrong?

Ha! You thought I was going to list them all?? Not today, I don’t have time.  But I will say they all have one thing in common…discomfort with change, I might even go so far as to say… aversion to change. 

I bet this isn’t a surprise at all, but even the most banal truth can be tricky.  Whether it’s a tree, a pet, or the most perfect executive director on the planet, no one wants to think about when they are gone. 

But the best time to plan for when they are gone is when they are still there and not planning on leaving anytime soon.  Why? Well, mostly because then it’s not about them, it’s about what is best for the organization. 

What?? You don’t have time to think and plan now?  Well, you can wait until they announce they are leaving in a month or get abducted by aliens (my personal euphemism for dying). But not talking about it or planning for it is really setting your beloved nonprofit up for what could be years of pain.  Truthfully, even with good succession planning in place, it still could go wrong…don’t get me started on hiring an executive director…how many times and ways can it go wrong…okay I can’t help it…most common reason….you settle instead of digging in and starting over.   

Succession plans include the planning for hiring the new person. Don’t ignore reality and don’t be afraid, rather dive in while you can and make the best plan you can.  I assure you that all will feel better for it!


I’m Struggling with the Day to Day, You Want Me to Plan Too?!?

The past year has been nothing short of extraordinary and has called all to a new way of being.  Strangely, for some nonprofits this has meant closing doors indefinitely and for others huge growth in mission work and donor support.  Truly, no one could foresee this time, I believe mostly, because we don’t consider that even if all is well and moving along, we can be blindsided easily and indiscriminately.  What then is our responsibility in moving forward?

I would respond in part that boards, nonprofit leaders and donors all need to ask more questions more often.  How would you respond to “this”? How deep is your expertise in “that”? How quickly can you shift service delivery? If your income dried up how many months could you survive? What scenario are you planning for today that could happen in the future?  Is your mission still relevant?  What is the “and” that you keep ignoring?  These are just a few questions, but they get to the truth that we can never be complacent because all things change whether we want them to or not.  And we can’t be so caught up in the day to day that we ignore planning and thinking about a future that is different.

For nonprofits who are working towards the future they must undertake planning well.  They must gather all the solid information and best trend analysis they can to look at scenarios that could happen and see how well they can adapt and meet the needs of those they serve.  And they need to pull their donors in closer to learn from them more than ever about why they give and what does their giving provide them.

Yes, the struggle of day to day is a lot and it always has been.   What’s really the issue is the capacity needed to change to what is needed today.  And, everyone is feeling this … mostly we feel it during the 10th virtual call of the day when we still are searching for the unmute button like we never knew it existed before that moment you are trying to find it…  Change is hard, planning is hard, but ignoring the critical need for both can be catastrophic. 

I’m here if you need some assistance in moving forward to a new way of being that feels right and good.  I promise you will get there.