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Career Guides

Nonprofit Senior Level: Development: Career Guides

Posted by Mitch Corlett on Jan 15, 2015 12:00:24 PM

Who is your competition for that Director of Development 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. Maybe you can even take a peek at the 990 tax filing to see the salary of the last person in that job.

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 executive 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, institutional giving, strategic partnerships, corporate giving, foundation relations, etc. And within those areas of specialization, it is possible to work at any level, from vice president to director to manager, depending on the needs of the organization.

A Development professional working at the Director level can find themselves functioning as a team of one or leading a staff of up to ten, depending on the size of the organization.


So how will your resume stack up against your serious competitions?

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 senior-level Development professionals:

  1. Do you devise and develop fundraising strategy for the organization, independently and/or under the direction and advisement of the executive team? Do you manage and facilitate the plans dictated by the board and senior leadership? Do you have a record of confidence from previous boards and/or executive teams?
  2. Do you have a record of successful fundraising? Experience developing, implementing, and managing cross-functional campaigns? Do you personally manage a portfolio which includes a mix of the fundraising activities your organization undertakes?
  3. Are you responsible for structuring fundraising efforts to effectively meet budget requirements? With limited/reasonable resources? At the least cost and with the highest ROI?
  4. Do you customize your organization’s portfolio according to constituency groups and how they respond to solicitation? Have you expanded a portfolio? Diversified funding?
  5. Do you build relationships with donors and connect them to the organization?
  6. Have you recruited volunteers? Worked with volunteer committees of the board?
  7. Have you developed a team? Do you set goals and priorities for your staff? Are you actively participating in driving the outcomes and goals of staff?
  8. Do you work closely with Marketing and Communications as well as the Finance team? Do you leverage their resources? Dovetail goals?
  9. Do you work directly with the board and help with board development? Are you responsible for writing board reports on portfolio activity and progress toward fundraising goals? Do you have experience presenting to executive leadership?


And what might prevent you from getting the job?

In addition to managing successful fundraising functions, cultural fit and alignment with the organization’s mission are the two most important things the hiring manager is looking for in Development professionals. It is also extremely important to have a solid, proven track record. Hiring managers want to see that you have been successful in a job for at least 3 years.


If you aspire to be a Director of Development, how can you set yourself apart?

We recommend that you:

  1. Position yourself to understand how fundraising requirements are tied to budget projections by working with senior leadership, including the CFO, and attending meetings focused on organizational strategic planning.
  2. Proactively seek to know your leadership’s expectations of how fundraising is to be accomplished.
  3. Develop a strategy for expanding an individual giving program. Set goals and make projections (e.g., forecasts of revenue/expenses, planned adjustments). Pitch your plan and execute.
  4. Design and implement a campaign that aligns with your organization’s vision. Craft the communication strategy and coordinate internally to cross-promote it.
  5. Develop tools, and where appropriate, provide coaching for leadership to participate in solicitation and donor cultivation. Follow up and provide on-going support. Learn and understand your leadership’s comfort level with fundraising and/or advise them appropriately regarding when they absolutely should be engaged with fundraising efforts for the organization.
  6. Work to understand your constituency group and how the market responds to your organization’s mission. Be creative in identifying new prospects to expand your portfolio.
  7. Build a recognition or stewardship process to cultivate relationships with donors. Find ways to integrate donors into the work your organization does.
  8. Evaluate the capacity of staff and volunteer resources to help with fundraising efforts. Build and train a network of volunteers.


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? Outline how you’ve managed competitive dollars and/or strategy to support key programs for the organization in a shrinking market.

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:
Fundraising: managed a diverse portfolio, identify funding opportunities, oversee fundraising events, secured $$$ in new revenue, execute campaigns, campaign solicitations, developed philanthropic investment opportunities
Strategy: formulated individual and account strategies, develops gift strategies, developed stewardship plans, implemented new system, conduct strategic planning and development, developed project strategies, developed gift policy
Research: supervised prospect research, increased prospect pipeline, analyzed, identifies prospective donors, instituted data-based systems to track and quantify
Relationships: cultivated and stewarded funders, cultivate donor relationships, managed donor relations/cultivation events
Communications: oversee development communications, created marketing collateral, directed the design of new communications, developed proposals, designed acquisition materials, developed strategic donor communication program
Leadership: led fundraising operations, served on senior management team, supported executive team in fundraising efforts organizational development, supervised fundraising team, managed development staff, collaborates with staff, collaborated with fundraising peers, conduct campaign and major gifts training to staff

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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