Technical skill or personality, which is most important when hiring a new director of development?
That is a great question.
And, while ideally, both would be great, that is not always a guarantee.
So what do you look for in this case?
While just about anyone can have the skill set of a fundraiser, not everyone can have the temperament to be a superior director of development. It takes personality to make a professional difference. And, let’s be honest, not everyone has personality.
What kind of personality?
Well, development professionals must have a temperament suited to serving people’s needs. They must be attentive, persistent, and flexible. They need to have a thick skin and be willing to give others credit. A huge piece of the job is making others look good while taking the back seat to their ego. When they do their job well, no one knows it. They make an indirect not a direct contribution to accomplishments and very rarely if ever take the credit.
The best development professionals are servant leaders, putting the needs of the organization and those that they serve ahead of their very own. They are the voice of the donor within the organization and as a profession as a whole.
Since they are that voice for the donor, I then ask, what is it that donors expect in that person?
A recent article published on Guidestar stated that donors want someone who is passionate and enthusiastic about the mission, has high standards of integrity, authenticity, self-confidence, and most importantly someone who loves their work and shows it by their willingness to pay the price to get the job done with joy.
So don’t hire based just upon skill sets or certifications alone. You might not be satisfied with what you get. Delve deeper to determine if this person has the right attitude, temperament, and belief that will take your organization to the next level and meet the needs of your donors.
Shall I dare say, good development directors are not as easy to find? But bad ones are!
For the past year, I have watched development jobs come and go on the job boards.
I lamented that folks like myself with over 20 years of experience, certifications, and education were getting passed up for the lower paid, less experienced, “greener” young ones. And, there might be some thread of truth to that. I can’t be all wet behind the ears.
But, the funny thing is lately, after a year of scanning job postings, I started to notice something very, very interesting. The same postings were coming up. A place down in Newport, a place in Dorchester, the same job, needing the same person.
It is so costly to keep having staff turnover. Expensive in many ways. Not just because of having to fill a vacancy, but costly to the organization as its donor base is disturbed. Development is all about relationships, and if high staff turnover continues, those relationships are never truly built.
Another thing that I have noticed is that some organizations are being a bit more proactive. Seeking out referrals for qualified candidates and then actively recruiting instead of waiting for candidates to apply and come to them.
The smarter move, I might add.
I guess I pen this manifesto for all those development professionals who have spent years in the field honing best practices and in some cases even developing them. It is time that organizations stop looking for the cheapest, youngest, idealistic help. It doesn’t serve the organization to cut the budget by hiring inexperienced newbies for its top position, particularly when it comes to fund development. Can you afford to take a chance on someone who is “green” behind the ears to figure it out as they go along?
I think naught! If you think differently, leave me a comment below.