How to get what you expect (and more) from your fundraising program

Rule 1 for nonprofit CEOs with visions of big gifts dancing in their heads: “Beware shopping for a development director when you are hungry—that is, when your organization is in desperate financial condition.” Rule 2 is like unto the first: “The notion that even a great development director can single-handedly pull an organization out of financial ruin is rarely accurate.”


So caution the authors of “Great Expectations: How Executive Directors Can Create Powerful Fundraising Partnerships.” I ran across this nice piece of writing while researching resources for a client organization considering its first paid fundraiser. The article is now on my list of must-read material for the CEOs and boards with whom I work.

You’ll want to check it out for yourself. In the meantime, here’s the short version of the authors’ 8 pointers for nonprofit executives in a hiring mode.


  1. Expect the development director you hire to be the development director you hired. A new job isn’t likely to transform a lackluster performer into a fundraising star.
  2. Expect to pay well, but ethically. This means saying “no” to the board member who suggests percentage-based compensation. The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) strongly opposes the practice, arguing that it puts self-gain ahead of mission, damages donor trust, and can encourage self-dealing.
  3. Expect some ramp-up time. Especially if you’re asking a development director to open a new fundraising channel or to significantly expand an existing one. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are high performing fundraising programs.
  4. Expect to spend more time fundraising. Typically donors want to talk directly with an executive director, so you should be prepared to do some asking. Effective development directors create more work, not less, for their bosses.
  5. Expect a board to be exactly the board you recruited. If you did not recruit your current board members with an understanding of their role in fundraising, hiring a strong development director cannot change that. It is your job and the chair’s—not the development director’s—to create the expectations for fundraising on your board.
  6. Expect to spend some money. A development director needs a satisfactory budget to develop and maintain effective fundraising strategies and systems. Particularly if your organization is new to fundraising, expect to make early and large investments.
  7. Expect a good plan. An effective development director plans thoroughly and works the plan with discipline.
  8. Expect ROI. It is critical that upon hire, and then annually, you work with the development director to develop and monitor detailed fundraising performance metrics.

Rule 3 with regard to the above: Get your expectations right and you can expect good things to follow.

For more articles with a similar theme, see:

Four essential truths about your CEO and fundraising

And  you thought fundraisers just raised money

Is your fundraising program punching above or below weight?

What's your take on this topic?

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