Development Team

A nonprofit organization’s development team consists of paid staff and/or volunteers. It is led by the person charged with the responsibility for meeting contributed income needs for the organization. All but the smallest nonprofits will likely have a professional development director. The larger the nonprofit, the more likely it is to have additional fundraising professionals on staff.

All nonprofits have volunteer leadership—at the very least a board of directors or trustees. Any nonprofit in need of contributed income should have a board-led development committee. The members of that committee and any other volunteers involved in fundraising are part of the organization’s development team.

From time to time, a nonprofit organization may engage the services of consultants and other vendors to assist in fundraising efforts. They too are members of the development team.

How an organization recruits and supports development team members—staff, volunteers, and consultants/vendors—is crucial to its overall development effort. Whether members of the development team are well equipped to carry out their roles, committed to doing so, and enjoy the active support of the board will make all the difference between success and failure.

Articles about the Development Team

Accountability & Job Performance for Nonprofit Fundraisers

How and what development professionals are held accountable for are two of the most important questions nonprofit organizations and their fundraisers face. Accountability is a necessary tool for managing staff and fundraising efforts, but it is only as good as the foundation upon which it is built. Early in my career as a fundraiser I struggled in achieving the goals and actions for which I was being held accountable. I would work hard with the best of intentions. But when it came time for my bosses to tally up my successes and failures they saw me as falling short. The result was frustration. I kept trying to meet the standards—usually only a dollar amount to be raised—placed in front of me. Being chided for my failure to do so seemed to leave me with only two alternatives: Quit the field of fundraising because I was unsuited to be a professional development officer. Hang on and keep trying until I was able to move on to an organization where I might have better luck. The first of those choices would force me to accept that the problem lay solely within me. The second assumed that a different organization would yield a different result—that luck of the draw was the difference maker. I was not ready to give up on myself. Nor was I willing to relinquish control of my fate or my organization’s to a belief in luck. What if, I began to wonder, the fault lay not in what I was doing, but in the accountability metric? What if the criteria by which I was being judged lacked validity?... read more

How Large Should A Development Staff Be?

The core of the question, in any of those settings, is a search for an “ideal” or industry standard. Such an animal doesn’t exist. There are just too many variables for an across-the-board approach to organizing a development office, especially in terms of how many staff should be employed before we know what they should be employed to do. That would truly be a backward approach. Before the how many, you need to know the what for. Too many questions need to be answered about an organization and its fund-raising intent before you can determine how many people are needed. How old is the organization? What is the size of its annual operating budget? Is the organization and its annual budget expected to expand, contract, or remain about the same size? Is the organization planning to add new functionality or service areas? Does the organization have an earned income stream? What percentage of the organization’s annual operating budget relies upon contributed income? Is there an existing fundraising operation? If so, how long has that fund-raising operation been in existence? What are the principal sources of contributed income at this time–small donors, large donors, grant-making organizations and corporations? Does the organization want to change the weighting of that sourcing? How well known is the organization and its work to the community which it serves? Has there been a change in the fund-raising environment in the community of donors from which the organization requests or will request funding? Have there been any events that impact the organization’s credibility in the fundraising marketplace The above list makes it clear that attempting to... read more

Metrics Can Be a Grant Writer’s Nightmare

Let’s pretend you’re the person in a nonprofit organization charged with seeking grants and that your boss is going to hold you accountable to one or more of the following standards. You must get _____ proposals “out the door” every_____. You must get ___­_% of the grants for which you submit proposals approved. You must raise a minimum of $_____ as a result of your grant proposals. I don’t think there could be three more dismaying demands. Using any of these too common absolutist metrics to evaluate a grant seeker’s performance is more than formidable. Depending on how the fill-in-the-blank numbers are determined, it can be flat out damning. Such demands, more often than not, lack a footing in reality. They are unlikely to show even a rudimentary understanding of which grant-making organizations are awarding grants to what initiatives, projects, and organizations. Demands such as these are unlikely to be based on any true market research looking at the way in which grant-making organizations value the purpose to which the requested grant will be put. And this is research that has to be done for each grant-making organization taking into account the operating context of the nonprofit seeking the grant. That is not research which can be done in a half hour on the Internet. It takes time and effort—a lot of time and effort! Too often such demands come out of the poorly informed view that: Success or failure can be measured simply by looking at the “numbers.” Those numbers need to be tough. Grant-proposal writers need to be pushed to “stretch” their goals and increase their effort.... read more

How Can I Become a
Non-Profit Fund-Raising Consultant?

There comes a time when some non-profit development professionals begin thinking about saying goodbye to their organizations and hello to the world of fund-raising consulting. They want to know what it takes to be a consultant, and how to find clients. Although the consulting profession may seem attractive, the leap into this hazardous arena requires serious thought and honest assessment of your knowledge, temperament and motivation. Consultants must respond to a wide range of challenges, so they need to have a wide range of experience I know from hard-earned experience what it takes to provide sound, reliable counsel to non-profits facing the challenges of recruiting volunteers, identifying prospects, managing campaigns, and asking for money. No one should expect to be hired as a fund-raising consultant without having behind them a broad base of experience in meeting and overcoming these challenges. Reading books and attending seminars are valuable learning experiences, but nothing trumps real-life experience. Large or small, young or seasoned, experienced or novice, clients expect consultants to deliver the detailed plans and proven tools the organization needs to attract the funds it seeks. This is a demanding profession where the consultant cannot say to a client, “I don’t know,” or “I’m not sure,” or “What do you want to do next?” It can be intimidating when all heads turn and all eyes focus on the professional consultant seated alone at the end of the table, charged with answering any and all questions Perhaps most challenging for an aspiring consultant is selling his or her experience to organizations that enjoy a professional development staff and a record of successful fund-raising.... read more

Finance vs. Development?

Mixing Oil and Water and Making it Work in a Non-Profit Organization The receiving and the handling of donations made to non-profit organizations are simple to do, but very often poorly done. When that happens, a vital block is taken out of the foundation we strive to build in an effort to ensure donor loyalty for future gifts. Lost or misplaced checks and other communications from donors, late and erroneous recording of gift/pledge dates and amounts, delayed and otherwise neglected acknowledgments, spelling errors of donors’ names, etc., all lead to lost or upset donors. We can all agree that this critically important process must be done right. And it starts with the very first check or pledge from a donor when it arrives in the mail room. But in many non-profit organizations, there is a sharply divided opinion regarding just where those checks, pledges, and other donor communications should go next in order to ensure that all goes right with the receiving, posting, acknowledging, reporting, and banking process of donations. Show Me the Money The Finance Department wants to be the receiver of the first resort. They are worried about possible theft, lost or misplaced funds, and failure, in general, to meet what they regard as standard accounting procedures. They are under the gun to provide up-to-date budgets and forecasts for the monthly meetings of the board of trustees and for all other such timely reports required in between. The Development Department wants to be the receiver of the first resort. They want to know the results of their fund-raising campaigns as quickly as possible, with no delay. They... read more

Development Director Job Interview Questionnaire

Introduction The interview form presented below is designed to elicit as much pertinent information as possible and as desired or required in the most advanced of interviews. However, for the vast majority of non-profit organizations, it is meant to be a guide to the conducting of a wide range of interview situations when seeking to hire a Director of Development. For each such hiring process, the questions selected by an interviewer for a non-profit organization should be relevant to the needs of that particular organization, and as the development professional’s duties are expressed in the job description. And, most important, they must be realistically in accord with the interviewee’s experience. The questionnaire is designed so that the interviewer asks questions which go beyond simple yes and no answers, thus allowing the job candidate to do a good deal of the talking. Desired/Required Basic Skills When hiring a professional development officer, the emphasis should be placed on the characteristics that are necessary for the appointed person to be able to carry out efficiently the position requirements. Specifically, you hire someone who can accurately and effectively communicate the mission of the organization, and who understands the importance of close interaction and teamwork among members of the development office and public relations/marketing personnel, as well as other professional staff and management. This person will also represent the organization externally in ways that foster the best possible relations with volunteers, actual and potential donors, sponsors and granting agencies. In succinct terms the requirements are: Knowledge of basic skills of fund-raising management; Superior organizational and communication skills; Donor and volunteer service mentality; Analytical capabilities;... read more

Sales Professional to Development Professional:
A Workable Transition

A For-Profit Salesperson’s Guide to Getting a Job in Non-Profit Development Introduction The primary and most direct way for sales professionals to obtain positions as development professionals in non-profit organizations is for former sales professionals to promote and demonstrate their sales skills and experience as relevant to what they would do in a non-profit development setting. The main purpose of this article is to provide interested sales professionals with the strategies and tactics they will need to begin new careers as non-profit fund-raising professionals. Two additional concepts can help accelerate and facilitate the sales-to-development transition into the consciousness and practice of both the for-profit and the non-profit communities. One is to explain how corporations—which are finding it necessary to layoff or permanently terminate their sales professionals for good reason, (through no fault of these otherwise valued employees)—can personally and directly help their former employees find jobs in non-profit organizations. The other is to bring to the attention of non-profit officials, who are looking to hire development professionals, the availability of an entirely new pool of potential employees—and to foster in them a recognition and acceptance of the many directly applicable skills and knowledge that sales professionals can bring to non-profit organizations. I will describe these further at the end of this article. Many Development Jobs Few Candidates The number of cultural, health, religious, social service, and educational organizations that must conduct fund-raising campaigns has increased dramatically in the past few decades. Well-trained and experienced development officers are in high demand, and good ones are hard to find. One reason for this may be that there is no proven training... read more

Wearing Those Development and Marketing “Hats” at the Same Time: A Bad Fit and a Headache

Wearing Those Development and Marketing “Hats” at the Same Time: A Bad Fit and a Headache Introduction For decades, I have heard about, observed, and have had personal relationships with scores of individuals who attempted to wear the Development and Marketing/Communications/PR “hats” at the same time and who for many years—mostly in vain—struggled to perform both those jobs within their non-profit organizations. Still, the reality is that this undesirable and mostly unworkable practice is currently widespread, and it will continue as long as the leadership of non-profit organizations are willing to attempt to squeeze two very different sets of duties from one person, and for those times when such professionals delude themselves into thinking they can work both activities equally well. Of course, there are exceptions, and some may very well wear the two hats with a good degree of comfort. However, from my long experience with just about all of the facets of non-profit fund-raising management, what I write and recommend must necessarily not deal with the exception. I have never believed that we can rely upon the exception for success, and that especially holds true in this instance. The Purpose Of This Article Is: To encourage professionals to think twice regarding the formidable and unique expectations, demands, and the pitfalls they surely will encounter when they are considering accepting such a position having those formidable dual responsibilities. To support professionals already in over their heads working to wear those two hats in their organizations as possibly a way for them to convince management to hire another professional as a colleague to fill one or the other positions.... read more

When Should a Non-Profit Organization
Hire its First Development Director?

The short answer is sooner rather than later! If a non-profit organization is beginning to ask whether it needs a professional development director, it probably should have hired one months, even years ago. The biggest mistake non-profits make in hiring their first development director is waiting until the board, executive director, and other key personnel have arrived at a consensus that one is needed NOW. An organization that waits until it is necessary to hire a development director has waited too long. When I was hired as the first development director of the Cleveland Orchestra way back in 1972, it had already been in existence for 55 years and was recognized as one of the world’s great orchestras. It was also facing a $1 million deficit. I was introduced to the board as, “… a necessary evil …” brought on by that staggering deficit. The orchestra had waited until it was necessary to hire me. It should have hired its first development director years earlier when a fund-raising development professional could have worked with the board to help prevent, or to greatly reduce, that deficit. So then, what are the universal signals—the indicators—that tell an organization it’s time to hire a professional development director? Well, the sad news is that there aren’t any. Each organization will have its own set of signals based on its culture, mission, budget, size, potential for growth, and a host of other factors. To know when to hire your first development director requires that you know your organization. You Can’t Add, Subtract, Multiply or Divide Your Way to When to Hire a Development Director... read more

What’s a Good Director of Development Worth?

Non-profits with resources sufficient to engage professionals in key staff positions seem to find it relatively easy to determine salaries for heads of marketing, finance, and human resources, among others. Development directors however are another story. Why is that? I believe there are several reasons. But perhaps most important is the fact that what is expected of the development director is rigorously defined by the individual situation of the organization. What will be asked of a development director is determined by an organization’s financial condition, board composition, and a host of other criteria highly specific to that organization. The human resources director of one organization is quite likely to perform just as well in another. But the development director who fits perfectly with organization A’s situation may find her or his skills and experiences a less-than-perfect match to organization B’s needs. Other directors and managers in a non-profit organization need to labor just as hard as the development director. They too need to bring professional skill, a strong work ethic, and integrity to the job. But a development director must add to that mix a sensitivity to both the organization’s resource needs and its donor and volunteer constituency. Development directors are the persons paid to see that the money an organization must have to perform its mission—even survive—is raised from a specific constituency of supporters and funding entities. High Expectations All non-profit organizations want a development director who has common sense; works hard; prepares to perfection; is courteous, sensitive, and understanding; exudes unbridled enthusiasm; possesses a positive temperament; and is committed to what the organization is doing. And that’s... read more

Making The Development Office a
Fund-Raising “Clearinghouse”

(It Makes for a More Perfect Fund-raising World) Introduction The fund-raising “left hand” not knowing what the “right hand” is doing when it comes to who is asking whom for how much, for which purpose, and when, has always been a common dilemma for non-profit organizations. So it was with mine. As I began my twenty-year engagement as Director of Development of The Cleveland Orchestra, it became readily apparent to me that numerous solicitations of individuals, corporations and foundations were being made without anyone’s coordination by scores of volunteers acting independently on behalf of our Orchestra in general, but specifically to meet needs as determined by the Orchestra’s three women’s committees, the Chorus, and by staff from the artistic, marketing, education, and finance departments. Such well-intended, but errant fund-raising activities collided with my own development department’s ongoing and planned annual fund, capital, endowment, sponsorship, and underwriting campaigns. Something needed to be done—and it was, with great and satisfying cooperation by all parties. Simply put, I actively promoted the benefits of establishing a process to make the development department the total fund-raising “Clearinghouse” as an absolute necessity in order to establish funding priorities, maximize funding potential for each of the special needs, and make more efficient our overall fund-raising program. The following article will make the case for such a clearinghouse arrangement, and show you how to do it should “ad hoc” fund-raising be an issue at your organization. A “Perfect” Fund-Raising World It Is Not! In a perfect world all fund-raising initiatives would begin and end with the development department. There would never be a worry about one fund-raising... read more

When the Development Officer
Is Obliged to Raise Her or His Own Salary

Paying For Your Own Keep Too often, especially in smaller non-profit organizations, staff development officers are forced into a deplorable position that belittles them and damages the organization. They are charged with personally raising their own salaries. These salaries sit outside the normal budgeting process. They are not treated as a regular operating expense. Instead, they become an extraordinary item, an afterthought. There is no rational argument for this practice. I believe it comes from trustees who mistakenly view fund-raising as a necessary, but demeaning, evil. They try at all costs to avoid doing it themselves, even though fund-raising is universally acknowledged to be a primary responsibility of trustees. For these malfunctioning trustees, fund-raising is a repugnant task they hire someone else to do. An attitude such as this places fund-raising outside of an organization’s regular operational activities. From there it is a short step to not including it in the budget and making development staff responsible for finding the money for their salaries. Such a view is dangerously flawed. Trustees who think that the people they hire to raise funds are in fact “the” fund-raisers condemn their organization to a life of under funding and curtailed programming. It is the responsibility of the leadership of an organization to take the lead in raising the funds needed to sustain that organization. There is no stronger indicator of an organization in trouble than the refusal of its trustees to accept their fund-raising responsibility. Fund-Raising Expense: The Cost Of Doing the Organization’s “Business” Growing, successful organizations see development staff salaries in the same light as any other personnel expense. They understand... read more

Who Should Raise the Money
from within Your Organization?

The board of trustees must be the lifeblood of a non-profit organization’s fund-raising and development activities. They are the leaders who approve program initiatives developed from the organization’s long-range strategic plan. They authorize the expenditure of funds to carry out those initiatives. Those board-authorized expenses determine the organization’s operating budget. When that operating budget is greater than earned and endowment income, money must be raised to cover the resultant deficit. Therefore, it is trustees who establish fund-raising goals through their expense authorizations. An Alarming and Potentially Dangerous Trend Those leaders of non-profit organizations who establish fund-raising needs should carry the full responsibility for meeting those needs, but in recent years I have seen more and more organizations place the burden for fund-raising gift solicitation on the shoulders of executive directors and development staff. When staff members are given the responsibility of raising all or most of the money an organization needs, I have seen those non-profit organizations experience many serious and damaging consequences. In those instances, trustees failed to recognize that successful fund-raising officers do not ask for the money; they get others, beginning with the trustees themselves, to ask for it. As I have seen more and more heated discussion in recent years about who should be raising the money for non-profit organizations, I have observed a change in how we development professionals describe and perhaps even think about ourselves and how others see us. What’s In A Name? Plenty! There is a tendency in the development profession these days to describe our work as fund-raising and to call ourselves fund-raisers. To my way of thinking, volunteers are... read more

The Executive Director and Development Director It Can Be a Relationship Made in Heaven or Hell

In a nonprofit organization, no single internal relationship is more important than that between the executive director and development director. One carries the responsibility of leading the organization to the efficient execution of its mission, and the other shoulders the burden of finding the money that makes it all possible. In many ways, these two individuals are joined at the hip. Why then do they seem at times to be pulling painfully in opposite directions? Far too often, I have received complaints from development directors that their organization’s executive director erects barriers that prevent them from raising money. On the other hand, executive directors have told me of working with development directors they felt hurt the organization because they failed to understand its true needs. Good development directors work hard to enhance relationships with donors capable of giving gifts of substantial size and scope. If they are to succeed, they need to represent those donors within the organization. They need to be the voice of those donors. They need to be the person driven to meet donor needs and committed to seeing donor desires addressed. Good executive directors work hard to see that the organization fulfills its mission effectively and efficiently. If they are to succeed, they need to represent each of the different parts of the organization at different times. They need to be the person driven to meet programming needs and committed to seeing that the organization stays in balance. Realizing that it is the executive director’s job to be organization centered, and the development director’s to be donor centered, it isn’t hard to see how the... read more

Consulting Agreement for an
Annual Fund Campaign

The following example of an annual fund development agreement between a non-profit organization and a fund-raising consultant is suggested as a guideline for: Organizations having little or no experience in drafting such documents. Experienced development professionals beginning a new career as development consultants. There may be occasions when a contract more formal in its nature, intricate in its wording, and legalistic in its phraseology is needed. However, my experience has been that simpler is better This sample annual fund agreement can be easily adapted for capital, endowment, sponsorship, and underwriting campaigns. The purpose of the fund-raising campaign and some of its jargon might be different, but for the most part, the steps in the fund-raising process are the same. That can be confirmed by reviewing my website’s articles and plan outlines for those respective fund-raising campaigns. A good campaign plan must layout what is to be done, when it will be done, and who will do it. The same is true of an agreement between an organization and a consultant. Clearly defined and agreed-upon expectations are at the heart of any successful contract. Contract Between Fund-raising Consultant and Non-Profit Organization for Counsel for an Annual Fund Campaign Introduction Annual fund campaign gifts to the Non-Profit Organization (NPO) provide the entry point of support for most of its donors. Annual funds comprise the foundation of the NPO’s overall operating support, and they are the steppingstones to special and major gifts. As personal contacts by NPO volunteers with donors continue, those donors are made more and more a part of the NPO family through a process of cultivation. As a result,... read more

Positioning Grant Writers For Success

Unrealistic Expectations, Pay Practices That Grantors Often See As Tainting The Funding Process, And Poor Planning And Follow Through, Can Doom The Best To Failure Some of the most heated discussion in the nonprofit world centers on grant writing. Why? Because so much is riding on it. It is the rare organization that could continue to carry out its mission anywhere near as effectively if its grants dried up, and for many, such an occurrence would sound the death knell. Of the three basic sources of money for non-profits—earned income, donations from individuals, and grants—the process of getting a grant is the most puzzling. All but the smallest organizations are likely to have people on staff or use outside counsel who specialize in grant writing. The demand for skilled grant writers, coupled with the mystery that seems to surround successful grant writing, leads to some troubled areas for development professionals and non-profit organizations. Two questions are central: How do you evaluate the performance of grant writers and how do you pay them? How Do You Evaluate The Performance Of Grant Writers? I have seen many resumes with statements like the following, “The grants I write are awarded funds 80% of the time.” A recent query to an Internet newsgroup by an executive director asked, “My grant writer has a grant success rate of 41%. How does that compare with the standard of other organizations?” Grant writers touting a past high percentage of grant attainment to impress potential employers are in danger of setting themselves up for future failure. How many of us would want to go into a new... read more

How to Recruit Your Volunteer Fund-Raising Team

Volunteers are the lifeblood of a development operation, and trustees are the most important volunteers of all. The trustees approve an organization’s budget and they must accept personal responsibility for raising called-for contributed income. They are expected to set the pace in giving, recruiting other volunteers, and soliciting major donors. Too often I have been engaged as a consultant only to have the executive director of the organization or chair of the board of trustees tell me, “Our board doesn’t raise money. You’ll have to look elsewhere for fund-raising leadership.” That’s when I tell them they have to change the makeup of the board. A board must include individuals capable of leading a major fund-raising campaign. There is no greater strength in a fund-raising campaign than a board ready and willing to lead. There is no greater weakness than one which sees fund-raising as someone else’s responsibility. Leadership is the key element in determining the goal or deciding whether you should even conduct a fund-raising campaign. Be it this year’s edition of the annual fund campaign, a first-time attempt to raise endowment, or a first-ever fund-raising effort, leadership is what will make or break your campaign. At its best, a truly responsible and effective board will produce a volunteer development organization along these lines: BOARD OF TRUSTEES → DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE → FUND-RAISING CAMPAIGN LEADERSHIP (Annual, Endowment, Capital, Sponsorship & Underwriting, Governmental) → SOLICITORS The board chair sets the tone for the organization and its volunteers. Other trustees look to the chair for leadership, and the chair has primary responsibility for volunteer leadership commitment. However, a development director may have... read more

A Development Director Needs More Than “a Smile and a Shoeshine,” But It’s a Good Start

This is the era of high-tech delivery of information in an instant. The Internet is accessible from any telephone line, and lap-top computers let us take the facts and figures—all the facts and figures—to wherever they’re needed. Development professionals must master this technology which lets us massage estate planning scenarios, target solicitation mailings, and develop campaign giving plans. But, we must also remember that, no matter how high-tech the tools, funds are raised person-to-person. In Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,” Willy Loman’s rejection of new technology, when he encounters a voice recorder for the first time, is part of his slow and agonizing deterioration. The only thing he knows—selling—is slipping from his grasp, and he tries to tighten his grip on it by clinging to the past. The times are changing and Willy isn’t. But that doesn’t mean that the experience of a lifetime of selling is no longer valid when he declares, “The man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead. Be liked and you will never want.” Willy is talking about being a salesman and having the proper temperament for the job, but he might just as well have been talking about Development Directors. Those of us who carry the responsibility of seeing to it that money is raised for non-profit organizations would do well to bear in mind Willy Loman”s failure to change with the times. But we should also remember what he says about the process of selling. You won’t be good at selling widgets, or orchestras, or social services unless... read more

To Consult Or Not to Consult: That Is the Question

To consult, or not to consult—that is the question. Or at least it would be if Hamlet were to ask it. Hamlet’s “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” make me think of fund-raising goals too great and resources to meet them too few. His “sea of troubles” sounds like an ocean of red ink. In fact, think about a scarily challenging fund-raising campaign too long, and your mood is likely to mirror the melancholy Dane’s. Just like him, you may begin to contemplate traveling into an “undiscover’d country.” If you’re exploring using outside professional fund-raising counsel for the first time, the journey is likely to take you to a country nearly as “undiscover’d” where no traveler returns as Hamlet’s oblivion. But, the land of fund-raising consultants is a place from which you can come back, and if you watch your step, with the competent and capable help you need. Fund-raising consultants can be a godsend to non-profits. For organizations with an inexperienced, small, or nonexistent development staff, they can do everything from mentoring a budding development director to designing specific campaigns and tools to setting up the organizational structure for an ongoing fund-raising effort. Larger organizations with considerable experience in fund-raising and a fully professional development staff can benefit from a consultant’s mastery of the process of initiating new types of fund-raising efforts and reorienting the development department Basically, there are two types of consultants: National or regional firms offering a full range of services and a large staff experienced in all facets of fund-raising and well versed in the needs of all types of non-profit organizations. Locally based... read more

The Argument Against Paying Development Professionals Based on Amount of Funds Raised

Few topics generate more heated discussion in non-profit organizations than whether development professionals (staff or consultants) should be paid a percentage of the money raised, receive commission-based compensation, or be paid a performance bonus. Perhaps because it is a practice of giving financial rewards to development professionals contingent upon the achievement of fixed money goals, we can simply refer to it as “contingent-pay.” Whatever you want to call it, two things are becoming more and more apparent. The practice is increasing. The practice is troubling the development profession. Thinking about why we have seen more contingent-pay in recent years, I found myself reflecting on a change I have witnessed in how we development professionals describe and perhaps even think about ourselves. There is a tendency these days to describe our work as fundraising and to call ourselves fundraisers. I have always thought of the volunteers as being the true fundraisers and we development professionals as the people who develop the atmosphere for that fundraising. To some this may seem like an exercise in semantics, but I think it is a great deal more. Many development professionals today enter into consulting agreements or are hired as staff to “raise funds.” Sometimes they even seek to be THE fundraiser for the organization they serve. The result is that these development professionals and their organizations have blurred the once clear difference between the fundraising role of development officers and that of trustees and other volunteer leaders. Many development professionals have become the “fundraisers” for organizations. As a result, contingent-pay methods of compensation have gained acceptance. The argument being, let’s reward people for... read more

Beginning a Career in Non-Profit Fund-Raising

“How Do I Get Started In Fund-Raising?” This question has been posed to me countless times in my nearly thirty-year career as a development professional. And, it is a query I now observe scores of times via the various internet non-profit-related News Groups. If this is a question you have been asking, I’ll try in this article to direct you to travel several avenues toward your objective of beginning a career in the non-profit fund-raising profession. The business of fund-raising quite often overwhelms and discourages individuals who wish to enter the profession. You are told that fund-raising is impossible and that the process is a mystery. When seeking your first-time development position, you read help-wanted ads for development officers which usually lists as a condition of employment, “must have a successful history of managing a major annual campaign or soliciting large donations.” These can be formidable obstacles, but they are not insurmountable. Take heart that fund-raising, being simple in design and concept, (but very hard work!) can be readily and quickly learned. And, you do not need years of experience to be good at fund-raising. All you need is the chance! Development jobs are available in great profusion because good and experienced development officers are hard to find. One reason for this may be that there is no broad formal training ground for development officers. However, you do have at hand the means to gain an understanding of the process of fund-raising. And, you can take advantage of the opportunities to enter the field through the process of apprenticeships in organizations where you can learn from the competent and... read more

Asking for the Money Is the Job of the Leadership and Friends of a Non-Profit Organization

Never Hire Someone To Do What Is Their Responsibility Fund-Raising Consultants Can Be A Godsend. They Can Also Be An Ethical, Financial And Donor Relations Disaster For organizations with an inexperienced, small, or nonexistent development staff, consultants can do everything from mentoring a budding development director to designing a campaign. Larger, more experienced organizations, even those with a fully professional development staff, can benefit from a consultant’s mastery of the process of initiating new types of fund-raising efforts and reorienting the development department. There is a valid place for consultants in the business of fund-raising, but there is also a place consultants should never go. It is one thing to engage a consultant to assist in the creation of a development effort, the design of a campaign, or an evaluation of organizational need and the resources available to meet that need. It is quite another to hire a consultant to ask prospects for money. What’s Wrong with Hiring Someone to Solicit a Prospect? Everything! Organizations ask for money to meet a current need and lay ground work for the future. The twin goals of every solicitation should be to get the largest gift possible and to strengthen the organization’s relationship with the donor. Use a “hired gun” to ask for money and you automatically reject those two goals. Every competent fund-raising professional knows that the best solicitation is made by someone the donor knows and respects. It is always easier to flat out turn down or, at the very least, give less to, someone you don’t know. When I want you to give to a campaign, the person I... read more