Creating Your 2015 Development Plan and Setting Your Fundraising Goals

One of the things I’m often asked–especially by Executive Directors who do not have a fundraising background–is what is reasonable to expect of their development directors.

This question is hardly surprising since the overwhelming majority of executive directors are unhappy with their development directors and feel that they should expect more. The crucial report, UnderDeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising, reports that only 27% of Executive Directors of organizations with budgets of $1 million or less are “very satisfied” with their development directors.  Executive Directors at larger organizations tend to be more satisfied with their development staff, but even there, the majority are unhappy with them. At nonprofits with budgets over $10 million—the organizations that have the budget size that presumably allows them to attract and retain top-notch fundraising professionals– Only 41% of Executive Directors report that they are very satisfied with their development directors. It is universal, then, that E.D.’s are unhappy with their Development Directors.

Further, disturbingly, 25% of the Executive Directors report that their last development director was fired.  The primary reasons for that are poor fundraising performance (31%), poor performance in general (31%), or a non-fit with the organizational culture (22%). On the last one I’ll say, if a fundraiser is trying to create a fundraising culture where there is none, then OF COURSE the fundraiser won’t fit with the culture AND ISN’T THAT A GOOD THING that the Executive Director should support? 

In a terrific blog a few weeks ago titled “13 Things HR Won’t Tell You About Your Fundraising Job,” Mazarine Treyz writes, “Any fundraiser worth their salt has been fired.” 

While I don’t have data on firings by profession (anyone reading this who has this data—I would love it if you would send it to me!), a brief google search, did not turn up any profession that has a higher termination rate than that of fundraising professionals.  Our necks do appear to be on the chopping blocks more often than people in other fields.

Part of what is fascinating to me about this is, a long-time complaint of mine is that fundraisers are usually held accountable in organizations…and rarely is anyone else. In the many nonprofit organizations in which I have worked, I have always had specific, measurable financial goals. I’ve always reported to a board of directors and sometimes also an Executive Director (in organizations in which I haven’t been the Executive Director) on my progress toward those goals and I have been expected to meet those goals.  In contrast, people in program or other positions (like finance or admin) haven’t had specific, measurable goals, haven’t done reports on goals, and when they have had one or two measurable goals, it’s never been any big deal if they haven’t met them. I’ve always felt this was a fundamental unfairness in nonprofit organizations that development directors were measured and were accountable and everyone else was given a pass for doing little other than being likable. A definite double-standard.

With that said, I also recognize that there are lots and lots of excuses for fundraising failure—we didn’t have board support, the economy is bad, our event was rained out, the government cut our grant, the United Way campaign didn’t come in strong, our mailing went out late, …  How does an Executive Director know what goals are realistic, which things are within the development directors’ control, and when to hold the development director accountable?

Join us on Thursday, December 18 for a free webinar to explore this topic more fully. The information is targeted at both Executive Directors and Development Directors in the hopes of facilitating a great planning and goal-setting conversation between them.  There is no cost to attend, but you must register to participate and there is limited “seating” in the event so register today

For more information visit the webinar description here.