Ten Tips for Starting a Development Office

fundraising roadmap Feb 23, 2021

If you are thinking about establishing a development office for the first time (or perhaps need to reassess your expectations of the current development office), here are some helpful tips:

  1. First, determine that you need a development office and that your board has agreed that this is a necessary step in the life of your organization. Be sure that the board and CEO don’t think that hiring a development officer means they no longer need to be involved in fundraising. Their roles will be even more critical with a full-blown development program.
  2. Develop a realistic job description for the staff person or persons you will be hiring.
  3. For help in developing the position description you can contact other nonprofits of similar size and ask them if they would be willing to share theirs, or try the Resource Center at AFP—www.afpnet.org or the many great resources at www.CharityChannel.com.
  4. Avoid the urge to ask how soon the development officer will be raising his or her salary. Remember that building relationships takes time and results will vary depending on the history of fundraising within your organization, the level of community awareness, and the support of the board, volunteers, and the rest of the staff.
  5. Appoint a development committee of the board; development is not just the job of the development staff--board and volunteers, as well as other members of the organization’s staff need to be involved.
  6. Setting goals for a first-time effort is difficult. Set some goals that are non- monetary, i.e. number of personal visits to donors made per month, number of increased gifts from past donors (if you have past donors), etc.  Many organizations set their development officers up for failure with unrealistic demands or expectations.
  7. Be sure to provide the development office with the tools it needs to succeed—a donor software system, adequate hardware, library resources, etc. Some great books are available at CharityChannel.com.
  8. Invest in the professional development of the staff; membership in the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) is a good way to get the resources, education, and training the staff will need. Books, publications and numerous webinars are available to help new development professionals.
  9. Be sure to have the chief development officer report directly to the CEO, whose role in development is critical. And give the chief development officer a title that is equal to other senior management in your organization. In other word, if have a vice president for finance and vice president for program, you should have a vice president of development.
  10. Introduce the development officer to the entire staff of your organization so everyone knows what development is all about and how they can help the development officer in assuring that your organization is financially sound.

To learn more about all things fundraising, including getting started, take my course, Your Fundraising Roadmap. Sign up here


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