Why Development Directors Leave

Dear Kim,

Our development director left suddenly, saying she had found an easier job and could not pass up the opportunity to do good work and not have to work as hard as she had to for us. We have no one to run our year-end campaign. Do you have suggestions for where we can find interim people who can manage all the details related to year-end fundraising and do some personal asking?

~Desperate ED

Dear ED,

Short answer: Not really. I would ask any nonprofit center where you are and perhaps google “interim development directors” to see if you have any firms near you that provide that service. Post something on Linked In. Sometimes people even have luck advertising on Craigslist. What you want is not very realistic, hence my long answer:

I hope you find a solution for your short term needs but what you need is to rethink the job you want the development director to do. How is it that you have “no one who can run our year-end campaign”? I understand that you may not have one person, but the campaign should be able to be broken up into parts. Board members, volunteers, other staff (if you have them) and you yourself should be able to take this on, even though it is a big drag. If you are to hire someone, hire an admin person who can handle the plethora of details that arise from coordinating mailings and making sure donors are thanked. A clue that your development function needs to be seriously revised is in your desire for an interim person to do some personal asking.   Personal asking is a function that should be spread over many people—you, the board, perhaps other volunteers.

Development directors leave because they have jobs of enormous responsibility and no authority.   Someone from your board needs to conduct an exit interview of this person and flesh out what she means by wanting to “do good” but not have to work as hard as she had been with you. As you seek a permanent development director, give that person a job that can be done, which in healthy organizations means having fundraising tasks be widely distributed.

Good luck, and please use this time to make some shifts in your organizational culture or you will just have a revolving door in the development department.

~Kim Klein