Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I left my magic fairy dust at home...

I saw a great article (or, rather, an opinion piece) in the Chronicle of Philanthropy today called "Development Directors are Not Miracle Workers." It was written by Rick Moyers, vice president of programs and communications at the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation in Washington, DC. I think his concluding sentence really sums it all up:

The development director is only one factor in a complicated equation.

I've seen this phenomenon time and time again at nonprofits where I've worked and at nonprofits with which I've consulted. Things go well, and the Development Director gets little credit. Things don't go well, and the Development Director gets most or all of the blame. For a Development Director to be successful, lots of things need to be in place: a strong partnership between the Development Director and the Executive Director; an active and engaged board; supports for research, grantwriting, etc.; the Development Director's involvement in planning and budgeting; and much more.

Most importantly, Executive Directors and boards cannot see the Development Director as the person who will get them out of their responsibilities for fund development. Raising money for an organization is the job of EVERYONE in the organization, from the Executive Director to the Program Directors to the person who answers the organization's phones. It is especially incumbent upon the Executive Director and board to take lead roles in the fundraising process. When organizations see Development Directors (or development consultants) as the keepers of some magic fairy dust, which they can just sprinkle and the funding will appear, without the Executive Director or board having to be involved in the process... trouble is just around the corner.

I've also seen the flip side of this - Development Directors who are afraid to engage Executive Directors and boards, or who take on more administrative roles rather than actively cultivating donors (or helping Executive Directors and board members with cultivation).

Certainly, there are effective and ineffective Development Directors out there. But there are also many organizations that are quick to blame the Development Director when the picture is actually a bit more complex, and more revealing about the organization's overall health.

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