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Career Guides

Nonprofit Mid-Level: Development: Career Guides

Posted by Mitch Corlett on Jan 15, 2015 12:30:39 PM

Who is your competition for that Major Gifts Officer or Development Manager/Officer job in the Washington DC job market?

When you see a job advertisement, some aspects of the job are obvious. You can envision the kind of work you would be doing, and recognize the new skills you can learn.

But you almost never see your competition for the job, or know what truly drives the hiring decision.

That’s why we’re bringing a little transparency to the hiring process, by pulling back the curtain on the data we've collected from our searches for Development professionals.


What do you need to know about how Development jobs are structured at this level?

Within the Development function, there are many areas of specialization -- Major Gifts, Strategic Partnerships, Corporate Giving, Foundation Giving, Institutional Giving, etc. Depending on the needs of the organization, it's possible to work at the mid-level under a range of titles within those areas of specialization -- from Vice President, to Senior Director, to Director, to Manager or Officer. Most titles for this level tend to be either Director, Manager, or Officer.


So how will your resume stack up against your competitors for the position?

Hiring requirements vary widely and are unique to each organization’s mission and situation, but there are a few things that employers usually tell us they want to see in Development professionals at this level:

  1. Do you work closely with Development leadership to understand how to align fundraising priorities with the organization’s mission and revenue goals? With prospective donors’ interests?
  2. Are you responsible for identifying ways to segment the donor base for targeted fundraising? Do you develop strategies and prioritize efforts for each donor segment?
  3. Do you contribute to the relationship management process? Do you assist in cultivating and stewarding current donors?
  4. Do you have experience building cases for support? Do you develop marketing materials to build relationships with current and prospective donors?
  5. Do you have extensive experience in doing asks? Have you developed at track record of success in asking for gifts?
  6. Have you participated in developing a moves management process?
  7. Are you responsible for managing or overseeing development/organization databases? Do you ensure individual donor activity and performance is appropriately and accurately tracked? Used effectively for donor retention and communications?
  8. Are you an experienced and skillful writer? Do you help develop donor communications? Have you done the research to capture the essential details to build donor relations and/or to staff your executive leadership appropriately with regards to those relationships?
  9. Do you write reports to provide quarterly updates on the status of your portfolio and fundraising efforts?


And what might prevent you from getting the job?

Hiring managers are most interested in those candidates who appear to be a good cultural fit for their organization, with interests and experience aligned to the organization’s mission. It is critical to have a demonstrated record of success, as evidenced by having been in a job for at least 3 years.


If you aspire to be a Major Gifts Officer or Development Manager/Officer, how can you set yourself apart?

We recommend that you:

  1. Get as much exposure as you can to all aspects of fundraising. Seek out mentors. Join a forum or online community focused on fundraising. Subscribe to blogs and follow influencers. Where possible and/or relevant, attend workshops and conferences to network with peers. Earn a certification.
  2. Learn how to develop metrics and measurements. In coordination with your leadership, set your own goals and use metrics to measure your progress on a quarterly basis.
  3. Analyze current donor activity and look for ways to strategically expand the donor base or increase the size of major gifts. Make recommendations to your leadership.
  4. Request to sit in on asks as an observer. Volunteer to do a few asks of your own.
  5. Take the initiative to improve Development processes. Practice your presentation skills by reporting issues and offering solutions. Bring ideas to your leadership.
  6. Work continuously to improve your writing skills. Contribute to donor correspondence, newsletters, or reports. Volunteer to edit outgoing Development communications. Whether required or not, provide regular staffing reports to your executive leadership (the more concise and dashboard-like, the better).
  7. Learn about moves management principles. Contribute ideas for contacts and moves. Add relevant data to prospects’ records for cultivation.
  8. Volunteer your services to a cause you’re interested in to expand your experience with a variety of fundraising activities. This could be as small scale as helping with a school fundraiser to as large scale as fundraising for a political campaign.
  9. If you find your niche and develop a preference for a certain type or style of fundraising and would like to start to specialize, contribute more to those specific areas.


How do you get yourself noticed by employers?

Just doing the work and developing the right skills is not enough. If you want more career opportunities to come your way, you need to make yourself visible. Highlight aspects of your background that employers will seek out most often. Frame your experience using the same language that employers and recruiters use for the job description.

The numbers matter - state them upfront on your resume. What is the size of your donor portfolio? How much revenue did you raise through campaigns? How large is the budget you fund? By what percent did you increase the donor rate? What size major gifts have you attained?

At a minimum, your resume, website bio, and LinkedIn profile should reflect key concepts that help you stand out from your competition. One of the best places to find the right language is in the job advertisements that you find attractive. But to get you started, here is a short list of key phrases used in some of our recent searches:
Campaigns: directed annual fundraising campaign, executed capital fundraising campaign
Engagement: identifies prospective donors, refers prospects, conducts face-to-face briefings, solicited gifts, participates in gift negotiations
Cultivate/Steward: plans cultivation activities, works to upgrade donors, developed enduring relationships, oversees recognition events, monitors stewardship activities, devises recognition plans, managed a stewardship portfolio
Coordination: served as liaison, communicates campaign priorities with staff, increased board support
Strategy: plans strategies, stays current with funding needs, results included growth in dollars and donors, conducted feasibility studies
Communications: produced targeted proposals, crafted marketing communications, writes: grants, annual reports, website content, direct mail solicitations, implements reporting schedule, responsible for correspondence, developed communications road map
Technology Tools: Raiser’s Edge, Donor II, Excel, Panorama, Quark, Page Maker


We hope you found this overview helpful.

All of our open searches can be found here. If none of our current searches are a match for you, you are welcome to send us a copy of your resume so we can keep you in mind for future openings. Please email your resume to resumes@staffingadvisors.com, subject line: "Keep me in mind."

As a candidate, what can you do to make hiring more personal?

What exactly improves your odds of creating a strong connection with another human being? How can you get the attention of the hiring manager and make your case? How can you get your point across even when the hiring process is trapped in the land before time? Your ability to tell the right stories about your experience is every bit as important as your experience itself.

The Staffing Advisors team has successfully completed hundreds of executive searches. We know from experience that the job search process is stressful for even the most accomplished executives. But it doesn't have to be. It’s what our Job Search Guide is for.

 The Senior Executive Guide to Job Search

Other Development Career Guides:

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