I have seen many well-intentioned organizations hire a new Director of Development or Major Gift Officer with great fanfare and celebration, believing that they had finally found the answer to all the challenges that go with raising money for their struggling nonprofit. They welcomed the new staff member to the team, introduced him or her with great fanfare at the board meeting, and issued a press release touting the credentials of their new money man or money woman.
Pretty soon, the hype fades away, staff go back to their work stations, and board members go home, leaving the new fundraiser to figure out how to work their magic and bring in all the money everyone expects to see before year end. Imagine the challenge that new hire as he starts his or her task without any of the energy and focus on the development program that was there when they accepted the job. Gone is that feeling of “we are glad you are here and let us know what we can do to help.” Suddenly, he or she is alone with their thoughts, charged with putting together a development plan and making it work.
Here’s a tip for you: Great fundraisers don’t don't like to be alone with their thoughts, their ideas, and their enthusiasm. They want to share it with their team, with their executive director, with their board development committee, and with others who share the passion for the mission of their organization. To be successful, fundraisers need a commitment from the leaders of the organization they represent that they will give their time and bring real passion to the cause of promoting a philanthropic culture in the organization. Without a collective willingness to do this, even the most gifted fundraiser will flame out or become frustrated, forcing your agency to start the hiring cycle all over again. If you agree with me that relationships between donors and your organization are critical to good resource development work (especially for major gifts), then celebrating a great new hire every two or three years is not the way you want to go.
So instead of doting over your your next great director of development, save some of that passion and attention for the hard work of helping them execute a great fundraising strategy. Bringing energy to the work ahead is a much more valuable contribution to your organization’s fundraising program than lifting your professional fundraiser up on a pedestal and watching from a distance as they fall from grace the first time THEIR PLAN doesn’t raise the money YOU – the uninvolved and unenthusiastic executive, board member or volunteer – expected.
Bert Armstrong is a co-founder and principal of Armstrong McGuire.