Sound familiar? If you are an executive director, nonprofit board member or development director, you are likely nodding your head. Too frequently, the dynamics swirling around these three positions in almost any nonprofit are more than you signed on to handle.
Earlier this year, CompassPoint and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund collaborated to determine why there is premature turnover among development directors, lengthy vacancies in that role and a seemingly thin pool of qualified candidates. The study included directors of development and executive directors in nonprofits of all sizes and types.
They want to encourage a national dialogue; there’s more than enough in this study to support that. I’ve seen it all myself on numerous occasions and it ain’t pretty. You can get the full report here.
For the next two weeks we will devote this blog to a summary of this vitally important study, reporting on the findings and calls to action identified through the research. Then in Week 3 we’ll look at highlights from Penelope Burk’s new book, Donor Centered Leadership: What It Takes to Build a High Performance Fundraising Team. Penelope has some serious thoughts about how to address issues raised in the study.
Challenges Identified Through the Research
A revolving door. . .There is a high level of instability and uncertainty in the development director position in nonprofits: high turnover, long vacancies, performance problems and the waning interest among development directors to build careers in their field.
Help wanted. . .The demand for qualified development directors is greater than the supply across the sector. The key word here, for nonprofit executives, is “qualified.” Executive directors report they can’t attract enough qualified candidates; they aren’t happy with the performance of current DofDs; and they believe their development directors lack key fundraising skills.
“It’s About More Than One Person: Lacking the Conditions for Fundraising Success”
According to the report, signs that an organization is up to the task of creating a successful environment for fundraising include:
· The organization invests in fundraising capacity and technology, and has a fundraising plan
· The staff, executive director and board are deeply engaged as ambassadors and solicitors
· Fund development and philanthropy are understood and valued across the organization
· The development director is viewed as a key leader and partner and is integral to organizational planning and strategy
My viewpoint: This issue has been plaguing nonprofits, particularly community-based organizations, for far too long. We as a sector tend to use the challenges listed above as excuses as much as anything.
So much opportunity is wasted or never realized because of “the fear of fundraising” that dominates our thoughts and actions. Also, too often we suffer from an attitude of entitlement that projects itself as a “you got money, I need some of it” mentality. Yeah, “nonprofit” may be nothing more than a tax status, and I thoroughly support good business practices, but we exist to serve. We can be our own best friends or worst enemies in how we choose to make philanthropy and fundraising a key part of who we are and how we impact society.
Let me know what you think.
Next week: Calls to Action from the CompassPoint/Haas Fund study.
 Editorial comment: Assessing a DofD’s performance is tough when there are so many factors outside that person’s control that can influence fundraising success.