Your director of development is the LeBron James of of your organization—they are the superstar everyone relies on to save the day and keep your nonprofit going. This leader is responsible for conquering one of the most important challenges at your organization: fundraising. With so much responsibility lying on their shoulders, the average fundraising professional stays at their job a short 16 months.
Even with years of fundraising experience, a director of development can’t solve all of your organization’s fundraising woes on their own. They need a reliable team to help them raise the funds necessary to not only keep your nonprofit afloat but also to advance your mission. To ensure your contribution as a member of the development department is impactful, strive to embody the following three traits that development directors need from their team members.
The ability to take ownership of your work sets stellar employees apart from those trying to skate by. Employees who are held accountable at their jobs and are involved in the goal-setting process tend to be more engaged and make a larger impact on their organization. Those who actively practice accountability in the workplace have also been proven to see improved:
- Job loyalty
- Job satisfaction
The ability to take ownership of your work is especially important in nonprofit organizations when your existence is contingent upon your donors. When high expectations are set for the development department, it can be easy to assign blame solely on the director of development when an initiative fails. However, the burden of a failed campaign shouldn’t fall only on your leader. Your entire development team should instead assume individual responsibility for certain tasks and campaign elements, which are ideally assigned before a fundraising initiative even begins.
Before a campaign, each member of the development team should set firm goals, as well as timeframes for accomplishing these objectives. Once this has been established, take the burden off your director of development and assign additional tasks out across the organization as needed to help achieve these goals. This not only takes some of the weight off of your manager’s shoulders but also promotes cross-departmental collaboration, helps deliver better results, and keeps your colleagues aware of what goes into fundraising that will benefit the entire organization.
Albert Einstein once said, “Creativity is contagious, pass it on.” Yet many nonprofit organizations struggle to come up with new, innovative ways to fundraise. Many fundraisers stick to what is tried and true instead of branching out. Additionally, nonprofits often find themselves relying solely on one source of funding, a risky move with huge repercussions if that source falls through.
Your director of development and entire team could benefit from your creative fundraising ideas. And creativity doesn’t necessarily mean reinventing the wheel. You can look to other nonprofit organizations you admire to see how they power their fundraising initiatives. When conducting your research, ask questions like:
- What caused them to succeed?
- Why did they fail?
- What could they have done better?
You should feel confident in sharing your fundraising ideas. While you might be nervous that your idea is too off the wall, it can be the perfect spark to freshen up your organization’s fundraising initiatives. Your director of development will also help sift through your ideas and decide which ones really stick.
Willing to Learn
Curious individuals who love to learn not only contribute more to their team, they also add to their own professional development. Some ideas for improving your skills and advancing your career include:
- Seeking opportunities for education and personal development
- Networking with other nonprofit professionals
- Attending another organization’s fundraiser
- Finding a good mentor
- Asking your boss or peers for feedback on your performance
- Taking on a difficult task that will force you out of your comfort zone
Trends in the nonprofit sector are continually evolving, new skills are often required to keep up with change, and better ways to do our jobs are constantly uncovered. If you stay comfortable, opportunity may pass you by and your colleagues who strayed from the norm could leave you behind.
Now that you know what your director of development is looking for, it’s time to start adjusting your work life. When you embody these characteristics you set yourself up for professional growth, the opportunities to tap new solutions, and the ability to better support your director. To get started revamping your fundraising strategy, check out our free guide below.