Development Staff Pay Scale Issues

Dear Kim,

I have been the executive director of Habitat for Humanity in a major metropolitan area since 1989. I also do the work of the development director with some assistance from volunteers and some board members. Frankly, I can’t do both jobs as well as I’d like, given that we have 22 houses scheduled for this year, a staff of 7.5 and a budget of $1.4 million.

Our administration committee thinks that good development directors cost more than any of our staff (including me) are currently paid and that even good development directors leave in 2-3 years before they have time to become effective.

So, my question is: how does a nonprofit hire a good development person and fit them into a cohesive, competent staff (none of whom make more than $42,000 a year?)

P.S. When you led a workshop here in our community, I asked you a question on how I planned to approach new homeowners in rich zip codes. You said my ideas wouldn’t work because I did not know if these people were givers, or if givers, if they were interested in Habitat. You were right. I tried my idea for six weeks and got a total of $100. I admire your expertise and wise counsel.
—No rest for the weary

Dear Weary,

Thanks for the compliment in your P.S. Everything I know I learned the hard way and not because I am any wiser than the next person. Now you know and maybe you can save someone some time in the future.

As to your problem, let’s look at the division of fundraising tasks among your current staff. Is it possible for them to take on even a small amount of fundraising responsibility? It is not entirely fair for a development staff person to come into an organization and be expected to do ALL of the fundraising. The happiest development people I know are ones who feel that the work of fundraising is well integrated with the program work, and that in addition to program staff doing some fundraising, the development staff get to have some input into program.

Now on to your specific question about finding a good development staff person for your group. First and foremost, above all things, before all else, and whatever other expression I need to use to get across my point– the person will be committed to the mission of Habitat. If they are committed, then the structure you have and the pay scale you use will make sense to them and they will be happy with it.

It has become very common to pay development people very high salaries– higher than the Executive Director in some cases. This sets up very unreasonable expectations for the development person, creates resentment among other staff, and is generally a BAD idea.

Excellent development people are hard to find. There are simply not enough of us. Therefore, they must be created. I suggest you find a bright enthusiastic person– either young, or second career, or recently retired, who wants to learn development. Offer them a salary that is lower than you would normally pay and take the money you are saving and invest in training them. Send them to trainings, pay for a coach, and create a good development person from the legions of committed volunteers that hang around your projects.

Remember, fundraising must be mission driven, or it is not going to work.