Directors of Development Are in High Demand. How Can You Become A Chosen One?

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It’s no secret that Directors of Development are constantly in high demand. A search on the Association of Fundraising Professionals Job Center returns 241 listings for ‘Director of Development’ nationwide. Similar searches on and return 1,662 and 325 results respectively for  ‘Director of Development’ positions.

Those thousands of vacancies are fueled by a well-known trend of high turnover among fundraisers. In 2013, CompassPoint gathered data from more than 2,700 nonprofit CEOs and CDOs and found that 53% of organizations report having difficulty finding qualified candidates to fill fundraising jobs and that half of fundraisers currently in leadership roles plan to leave their jobs within two years or less.[1]

As a seasoned fundraiser and consultant, I’ve witnessed this trend play out time and time again, and it’s both maddening to see the damage high-turnover wields on the ability of non-profits to raise the revenue they need to achieve their missions, and somewhat comforting as a fundraiser to know there is a plethora of work out there to be had.

Since launching my fundraising consultancy 4 years ago, it’s been my job to help clients tackle their toughest challenges and set a path to improvement. In doing so, I work with existing development leadership, or when there is none, serve in an interim or outsourced role. So, I decided to see how my personal experience compares to the trends. Turns out, in my 15 years fundraising in both in-house and consulting roles, I’ve held the title of ‘director’ 9 times.

Adding up my list of titles was a real gut check on whether I’m part of the problem or part of the solution. But, as a good fundraiser (and good human!) my instinct was to figure out how I can use my experience to be part of the solution.

My experience as a fundraiser has been anything but average, especially because over the years I’ve not only held 9 ‘director’ titles, but I often held them concurrently while serving multiple clients. There were long stretches of time where on Monday I was the Director of Development for one organization, and on Tuesday I was the Director of Corporate partnerships for another, collectively responsible for raising millions of dollars across multiple portfolios. By the virtue of being responsible for running multiple development shops at the same time, I had to become incredibly efficient in how I used my time with each of those organizations.

So, in an effort to part of the solution, I’ve taken my multitude of ‘director’ experiences and distilled them down into 7 habits I believe the most efficient and effective directors should adapt into their everyday work. And, I’m on a mission to share my knowledge with anyone who is a director, aspires to be one, needs to hire one, or needs to manage one. My hope is that these 7 habits will enable good directors to become great, aspiring directors to advance into the role, and the hiring managers and supervisors to recognize the traits modeled by great directors (and also the resources they need to be successful!)

Join me as I share those 7 habits in a fun and engaging presentation I’ve titled “The 7 Habits of a Kick-A$$ Development Director” on Thursday, September 20 at the Foundation Center Northeast-Washington, DC. Participants will learn core components and competencies behind the 7 habits and simple strategies for implementing each habit, as well as enjoy the opportunity to connect with other directors and share tips and strategies. Register today!

[1] Bell, Jeanne and Marla Cornelius, UnderDeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising (San Francisco, CA: CompassPoint nonprofit Services and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, 2013).

Maureen Devine-Ahl

MAUREEN DEVINE-AHL has experience fundraising in both the non-profit and higher education sectors, to include leadership roles at The National MS Society, The George Washington University Law School, and East Carolina University. In 2012, Maureen embarked on what would become a “once-in-a-career” experience fundraising for Antioch College while it was working to re-open and gain accreditation as an independent liberal arts institution, committed to social justice and sustainability in higher education. That unique and challenging experience inspired Maureen to launch her consultancy, helping non-profits of all sizes and missions to solve their fundraising challenges.

Maureen launched MK Fundraising Solutions in 2014, and since then has worked with a variety of clients on development strategy, major gifts, moves management, annual fund, alumni/donor relations, strategic cultivation, stewardship, day-of-giving programs, development writing, corporate partnerships and more.