How to Hire Development Staff Part 2

How to Hire Development Staff Part 2

Men and women with five or more years of experience raising money for non-profit organizations are regularly claiming $60,000 salaries and greater depending on where in the country they work and how much money they are responsible for raising. In fact the median salary for a Director of Development is now $69K; $62k for environmental organizations. So as an Executive Director of a land trust, do you swallow the price tag and hire proven experience, or do you hire less experience for a smaller salary?

In a little bit, I will argue for the latter, but first I want to make the case that most land trusts need a Development Coordinator before they need a Development Director. Let’s look carefully at what a Development Director does. A skilled Development Director will be a planner, strategist, facilitator, evaluator, and “director” of fundraising work. Most Executive Directors I have met expect the Development Director to “take over” the fundraising work from him/her and the Board. Good Development Directors know that this is a recipe for failure.

In the absence of fundraising staff, though, the immediate need is for someone to pick up the detail work. Get acknowledgement notes out on time, keep track of the membership renewal cycles and appeals, meet grant deadlines and track foundation reporting requirements, keep up with the filing, organize the meet and greet events, and make sure everyone’s name tag is spelled correctly. Fundraising success is all in the details, so having someone on staff whose job is to handle the details frees the ED and Board members up to raise more money in less time.

But don’t pay top dollar for a Development Director and then saddle them with the job description implied by the preceding paragraph. Hire a Development Coordinator position instead. Perhaps this person could be groomed to be a Development Director; perhaps not. Either way, be clear about getting the right job description filled first.

With a Development Coordinator in place, consider these factors:

  • My Board is actively engaged in fundraising;
  • My organization has face-to-face relationships with 50 donors, and I can see that we could double that number in the next few years;
  • There’s so much going on that sometimes I feel like I don’t know where to start with fundraising, and it’s beginning to drain our organizational enthusiasm for fundraising;
  • Our overall administrative budget is more than $200,000.

If this is you, think about hiring a Development Director this way:

  1. Have a year’s salary ready for the position before you hire. Plan for the newly hired Development Director to raise his/her salary right away, but be prepared for it taking until the second year him/her to have a substantial impact.
  2. Consider hiring compatible talent (see last week’s post) instead of experience; but if you hire talent, make sure you generously invest in their training and professional development.
  3. Last, consider an aggressive pay increase schedule. Consider five years’ experience as worthy of $60K on the open market. Set some significant benchmarks for face-to-face donor contact, work with Board members, asks made, and dollars raised. If your talented newbie meets the benchmarks, consider merit raises between 5-15% for the first several years. Otherwise the talent you just invested in might find it more lucrative elsewhere.

For an excellent primer on hiring a Director of Development, check out this article from Kim Klein.

Got a good story (or horror story) about hiring? Advice? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.



Photo: Stream in Winter, Walt Kaesler


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