Care And Feeding of Development Directors

Hat tip to Rosetta Thurman for linking to a valuable article about the care and feeding of Development Directors on the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Carol Weisman wrote “5 Ways to Lose Your Development Director in 2 Years or Less,” decrying the poor treatment and lack of support development staff receives.

An excerpt of her list:

1. Pay a ridiculous salary. A friend recently pointed out an ad on Craigslist for a development director. The position requires an MBA and five years’ experience or a Certified Fund Raising Certificate. There is a list of 15 responsibilities, including manage all aspects of individual giving, manage Web site, lead $3-million capital campaign, design and write the newsletter, recruit and manage volunteers, represent the agency at community events, and the list goes on. Salary: $40,000. I mean, really.

2. Reward great performance with unrealistic expectations. A friend of mine works at a university. The department she works in raised $350,000 in 2011. She raised $1.2-million in fiscal 2012. The goal she was given for fiscal 2013, $2.5-million. The additional staff support, financial support for meetings and training: zero. After a highly successful year, she is reading the want ads.

3. Provide absolutely no board support.

4. Don’t provide funds or the time for developing additional streams of revenue.

5. Avoid recognizing the work of your development professional.

Weisman expounds upon points 3-5 in the article. I didn’t want to get into reproducing the whole thing here.

As you might imagine, this is a sore subject with fund raisers. There were many comments on the article. One of the first, by a person using the sobriquet “helpfor501c3s,” related the following:

“When I have interviewed for Director of Development positions, I do my homework and read the organizations’ 990s prior to the meetings, anticipating the question about salary expectations. I have found that seeing the previous years’ compensation paid to CEOs and VPs is a helpful guide to preparing for a realistic response. Quite often when a CEO asks me for salary requirements, I am met with a response “That’s almost what I make!”

CEOs and Executive Directors have to get over the notion that they are the only employees that should make a high salary. When the Director of Development is the one responsible to raise the support to pay the CEO, a bit more consideration should be given to amply compensating an experienced and skilled Director of Development.”

I quote “helpfor501c3s” first to advocate for using 990 filings as a pre-interview preparation tool or for pre-application research if you are uncertain if an organization can meet your salary needs. I also cite “helpfor501c3s” for making the point that the development office is frequently responsible for raising the funds that pay the CEO and should therefore be highly valued by those in the C suites.

More than just a pleas to be nicer to Development Directors, both the article and the commenters talk about the importance of including fundraising in board training and education. There was a sense of letting the development office help the board get better at helping them rather than a declaration of “give, get, or go.”

As I read the article there seemed to be this feeling that development offices were expected to go out and raise money without depending on anyone else in the organization. Almost as if the marketing and promotions people were expected to gather information about a play or musical piece and all the artists without asking the artistic staff.

If you don’t think that is an apt comparison of the conditions in development offices, read some of the examples given in the article and the comments. It will probably be difficult to avoid seeing at least some similarities to your organization.

Every department in an arts organization suffers some injustices that need to be corrected, that is no surprise. You may not think about what they might be in relation to your development people that often.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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