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3 Tips to Manage Your Growing Development Team

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Published September 2, 2015 Reading Time: 3 minutes

Many small social impact organizations only have the resources for one development professional who must juggle multiple revenue streams. But as a nonprofit grows and its development staff expands, it faces new challenges. With more people working to fund your organization, you must know what you are working towards and how each person helps to achieve it. It’s not enough to be bigger, your development team has to be better.

In growth periods, organizations must set clear goals for everyone, adapt to more specialized roles, and foster open communication among team members. Use these strategies to offset the growing pains that sometimes come with a larger staff.

1. Set Smart Goals

Goals are important for any organization or team. They provide purpose and guidance for newcomers and veterans alike. Because development’s fundraising success affects every level of a nonprofit, goals are especially important for these teams.

The obvious goal is the amount of money to raise, but this is not the only objective development teams should pursue.

Some areas for development goal-setting are

Remember that the best goals are measurable and have a deadline. Drafting specific goals makes evaluating the results much simpler. For example, if you want to improve monthly recurring revenue, you should create a revenue target and a deadline by which you want to achieve it. When that deadline arrives, you can look at the numbers and see if you succeeded.

With these objectives in mind, you can identify what steps your team must take and periodically check your progress against them. Consider breaking up department goals into individual goals. If you want to increase overall donor retention by ten percent, for instance, you could break down what that requires of every member of the development team. Whoever works on peer-to-peer fundraising will have a goal for third party donor retention, while monthly giving will have a goal for retention as well.

In any case, all development team members should be aware of your overall goals and how their individual role contributes to them.

2. Foster Specialization

Specialization can increase productivity by allowing individuals to focus on and excel at particular tasks. The auto industry, for example, was forever changed by Henry Ford’s use of assembly lines. Many workers performing a single task quickly allowed the company to build cars much faster. This principle can be adapted to a nonprofit’s development department.

Whereas a one-person development department must identify and pursue several funding sources, a larger team allows individuals to focus on a specific aspect of development.

A large development department might have individuals responsible for

  • Individual giving
  • Recurring and planned giving
  • Event fundraising
  • Corporate sponsors and partnerships
  • Grant funding

As your team grows, however, you will face decisions regarding which positions to add and how to delegate tasks among your team. Initially, it may help to evaluate the skills of your existing staff and identify the gaps. If your current team is strong in event fundraising and individual giving, you would look at what funding opportunities you don’t have the time or expertise to go after. A nonprofit in a cause sector with many grant opportunities might choose to invest in a grant writer.

As new positions are created, you should also keep in mind which areas might overlap. For instance, fundraising events frequently recruit corporate sponsors. Communicate to each team member what their responsibilities are and with whom they will need to collaborate.

3. Communicate With Your Development Team

All teams, organizations, and relationships can benefit from open and honest communication. Just because you have a specialized role doesn’t mean you should ignore the rest of your department’s work. Your teammates probably have insights or experiences that can help you in your responsibilities.

Have weekly check-ins at which all of your development professionals can share what they’ve achieved and what they’re struggling with. These don’t have to be drawn-out affairs. Consider having “standup” meetings, where everyone stands until the meeting is over. This serves as a constant reminder to keep things short and sweet.

The ability to reach out for help or guidance will be especially helpful for new team members taking on redistributed tasks. It’s better to ask and find out how to do things right than guess and have to do things all over.

Growing your development team is an exciting step. It enables you to pursue more funding opportunities and hopefully grow your programs and impact. Keep in mind that adding new development team members will also change the dynamic of your department. Use these strategies to help your evolving team hit the ground running.

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