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Posted on in Fundraising

Development Directors are facilitators. Their work is done through the actions of others: executive directors, board members, funders, donors, volunteers, program staff.

For the most part, the visible components of the development process – sending a letter, having lunch with a prospective donor, approving a grant proposal, writing a check – are prepared for by the development director, but undertaken by those in more external-facing roles.

A development director’s job can be compared to the invisible hand moving the pieces around a chess board. 

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Posted on in Fundraising

What’s the one most powerful indicator of an agency’s ability to make lasting change in its development returns?

I have a surprising answer to that.

You’d think it was the board, or a wealthy founder, or a super-rich patron who takes the agency under his/her wing – but I don’t think those are the factors that lead to real, sustained, institutional fundraising change.

It’s the support and attention of the executive director.

Why do I say that?

Because board members are volunteers.

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Posted on in Fundraising

The auctioneer gave a beautiful, rousing speech about the nurturing children receive under the organization’s care. A parent offered a heartfelt thank you from the stage as they discussed their journey. And then the call for bids started – at $5,000 – with no takers.

The reason? No-one wants to be the first to stick their neck out and be exposed as the lone believer. Everyone is watching to see who’ll take the lead.

Which means that if a nonprofit hasn’t stacked the deck with a few bid-starters – they’ll be out of luck in a very embarrassing public display of “chicken.”

Not good for the cause, for the agency’s reputation, or for the kids. 

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Posted on in Fundraising

It’s hard to ask for money to honor myself” complained a special event honoree recently – and rightfully so.

Sidestepping that reluctance is the reason why many organizations recruit event co-chairs, or vice-chairs – someone who asks, in the honoree’s name, for the donation. “Please give money to honor Robert who’s been so important to our community” is a lot more palatable than Robert asking, himself, for a gift.

But there’s a third ask possibility – and a fourth. The third pitch is asking because of the organization’s good work; and the fourth is asking on behalf of the recipients of the organization’s work.

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Posted on in Fundraising

There’s a symbiotic relationship between an Executive Director and their Director of Development.

Without the ED as pitch person, supplying sizzle and vision, donors won’t make a significant investment. There has to be trust in the organization’s staff leader as the steerer of the ship.

But without the DoD as the planner and strategist, the ED’s time in the fundraising limelight can be spent mindlessly, re-nailing down already-in-the-fold sure shots or chasing fruitlessly after longed-for moonshots.

It’s a partnership of chess master and showman, planner and convincer. A marriage of complementary roles.

But why isn’t this partnership stronger in so many groups? What goes wrong?

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