Dear Kim:

I am one of two administrative staff for an organization that works with public school teachers and needs to raise a lot more money to keep up with demand for our services. My job is supposed to be administrative—doing financial reports, creating budgets, reporting to funders. When faced with the question of hiring a development director, our administration committee fears that such a staff position will cost too much (more than any of our staff are currently paid) and that even good development directors leave in two to three 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?)

—No rest for the weary

Dear Weary:

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 (and most productive) development people 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 work.

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 must be committed to the mission of your organization. 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 common to pay development people very high salaries—higher than that of the executive director in some cases. This sets up unreasonable expectations for the development person and creates resentment among other staff.

It’s true that excellent development people are hard to find—there are simply not enough, at any price. Therefore, they must be created. I suggest you find a bright, enthusiastic person—either young, or beginning a second career, or recently retired—who wants to learn development. Offer them a salary that is lower than you would normally pay and invest the money you are saving in training them. Send them to trainings, pay for a coach, and create a good development person from the legions of committed volunteers that you can probably find around your projects. (See also an article called “Grow Your Own Development Director,” by Linda Ann Miles inVol. 24, #1 Jan/Feb 2005, available at www.grassrootsfundraising.org/magazine/articlefinder.html)

Remember, fundraising is a skill and can be learned. It is not actually that hard, but fundraising must be mission driven, or it is not going to work.

—Kim Klein