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5 Questions Every Development Director Should Ask in Interviews

Posted By Jennifer Dodd, Friday, March 3, 2017
Updated: Wednesday, February 15, 2017

I have been so fortunate to work with some of the most amazingly hardworking development professionals, through coaching, consulting and custom training.  The statistic that continues to haunt me is that development leaders have an average turnover rate of 18 months. 18 months!

With that statistic in mind, here are some in-depth questions we should be asking as we interview for new development leadership roles.

How much does the board give to the organization?

The board’s commitment to any organization is key, and the best organizations have 100% participation in giving.  If the board is not giving to the organization at a level that’s meaningful—or worse, not even being asked—this could indicate a lack of understanding of the development efforts needed to propel the organization forward.

How does the organization create their annual Development Plan?

A best practice for development directors is to create a robust and detailed development plan, with input and buy-in from key board leadership and the CEO.  This development plan’s ownership lies with the development team, but a well-oiled board will recognize their responsibility in carrying out tasks assigned to them in the plan. If the organization does not have a plan, it may not be a red flag, if they indicate that they understand the need to work as a team with your leadership to create one once you are hired.

Who sets fundraising goals?

Fundraising goals should be established by the development director, CEO, and board of directors and should be made based on a clearly outlined plan. Boards that set arbitrary fundraising goals based on percentage increases, without understanding what they need the money for, may leave the development team feeling unsupported.

What does the organization raise money for?

You’re not asking if they raise money for neglected animals or cancer research; you’re asking where does that money go. If leadership cannot articulate that, then how will you? The portion of fundraising efforts supporting programs, operations, capital needs, and more should be understood by key nonprofit leadership.

What does the CEO want their role to be in stewarding donors?

Some of the best fundraising teams involve dynamic CEO/Development Directors.  As a leader in development, it will be your job to “manage up” to your CEO, insuring that they know what their role is in the fundraising process, and even more specifically, with certain donors.  Research shows that If the CEO has a hands-off approach to fundraising, it will be difficult to raise major gifts.  On the other side, if the CEO holds all your major donors too close for you to build a relationship with them, it may be difficult to create a meaningful connection between those donors and your organization and not the CEO. 

What does the organization currently do to steward donors?

The organization should already have a “culture of giving.”  That doesn’t mean that they need a robust giving program, especially if they are hiring a development professional for the first time.  However, it does mean that the CEO and board leadership should be able to express what they are already doing to make sure that donors feel valued, gifts grow each year, and information about donors is being appropriately captured.

Interested in sharing your opportunities and challenges as a development leader, in a confidential environment? 

Sign up for our first development-focused peer-exchange group, Fundraiser Confidential, now.

We’ll meet quarterly to share and discuss current challenges and brainstorm solutions. Join us for the inaugural meeting on Friday, April 28th. Register here

A native Texan and graduate of Texas A&M University, NLC Director of Strategic Solutions Tuesdi Dyer has been a fundraiser in the Tampa Bay community since 1999. 

She began in 1999 with The Spring of Tampa Bay, moving on to be the Senior Director of the American Diabetes Association in 2005. She became the Development Director of CASA in 2007, taking a hiatus for 2 years to serve as the President of the Junior League of St. Petersburg. 

In 2009, Tuesdi was recognized as “Rising Star” by the Tampa Bay Times, and Young Professional of the Year by the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce in 2010. 

She served as lead advisor for Women and Children’s issues on Former Mayor Bill Foster’s 2013 campaign. Additionally, she graduated in the Tampa Bay Public Leadership Institute’s 2013-2014 class.  

Tuesdi has served on multiple community boards, including Creative Clay, Inc., The Pinellas Education Foundation, and the South County Juvenile Welfare Board.


Tags:  development  fundraisers  fundraising  nonprofit  nonprofit leadership center  peer exchange 

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