When do you hire a Development Director?

July 26, 2011

Filed under: Fundraising,Human Resources — Tags: — jonathanpoisner @ 10:43 am

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the transition of organization from all-volunteer, to their first Executive Director, to the build out of additional staff.

One of the recurring questions that comes up — when do you add a Development Director to the staff?

I know of several organizations that hired a Development Director as the first or second hire after the Executive Director, and the results have been mixed.

So here are some of the questions I’d ask myself before hiring a first Development Director:

Do I have a clear fundraising plan so they can hit the ground running?  If not, they could wind up spinning their wheels at the beginning or worse, going off in pursuit of the wrong strategies.

Do I already have more true organizational prospects to solicit than I have time to solicit?  If the biggest barrier you have to major donor fundraising is lack of prospects, how does adding a Development Director help?

If I expect the development director to manage low dollar fundraising, have I made a realistic assessment of the time that will take and the net revenue it will generate, taking their staff costs into account in determining net revenue.  Low dollar programs are very valuable over the long-run, but often cost money in the short run to develop them, particularly when staff time is included in the evaluation.

If they will be taking over management of a major fundraising event or series of events that I have previously managed, how much time will that free up for me to raise money through other methods?   What will those methods be?    And am I taking into account the time I will need to supervise the Development Director?

Can I find somebody who’s a true self-starter and who starts out with relationships they can tap into for fundraising, so that they’re bringing new donors to the table with less time necessary for my management of them?

If they do start bringing in more donations, do I have the administrative systems and staffing in place to handle a larger flow of donations (eg. banking, databasing, thank you’s, cultivation, etc.).  Or will the development director have to manage all of that?  Have I taken that into account when guesstimating how much money they will be able to raise?

Have I set aside in savings up to 3 months of their salary so that they can ramp up their work methodically for the long-run, rather than forcing them to cut corners up-front trying to raise money at all costs.  I’ve seen Development Directors start who’ve come in with a burst of frantic energy tapping a small number of their own relationships with some success, but having done nothing to lay the groundwork for future fundraising, so it sputters to a halt.

From the above, one would think I’m negative on hiring Development Directors.  To the contrary, for a thriving organization, you will at some point reach the stage where the Executive Director must have somebody else whose full-time job is thinking about and executing development plans.

But adding that staff prematurely is as likely to set you back organizationally as move you forward.  So think it through!

What do you think?  Are there additional considerations that I haven’t mentioned?

Content © Copyright 2010-2013 • Jonathan Poisner Strategic Consulting LLC. All rights reserved.