Discovering the strength of your philanthropy culture

By Stefanie Krievins, coach and founder, Radiancy Coaching Partners |

According to a recent Compass Point nationwide survey, half of all development directors anticipate leaving their current jobs in less than two years. This is coupled with 25 percent of executive directors reporting that they fired their last development director.

The survey also concludes that an underlying cause is development directors are feeling solely responsible for the organization’s fundraising. Expectations are not aligned across the organization when it comes to raising the money needed to successfully deliver the mission.

The secret to high-performing organizations is that responsibility is shared between the board, the executive director, the development director and all staff.

Here are five key questions that the board, executive director, and development director can ask to ensure that the organization is creating a high-performing development function:

  • What is the realistic capacity of our organization’s development staff and the technology we use to manage donors and donations?
  • Beyond the development director, who is soliciting directly and serving as an ambassador for the organization?
  • How is philanthropy and fundraising valued across the organization?
  • Is the development director a true key leader in the nonprofit’s organizational planning and strategy?
  • Are we treating people (donors, staff, and volunteers) as people and not just revenue sources or resources for the mission?

Here’s a sixth question: What does it reveal when these roles compare their responses?

The Compass report had some troubling statistics that points to the revolving door in our development functions. While Central Indiana has some fantastic philanthropic resources, we see the 18-to-24 month development director turnover, too. As a donor, I receive no individualized connection for most of my gifts.

There are some steps all organizations can take to support the development function AND the development director. Coaching is one tool to help fix this situation.

Fundraising employees and leadership can benefit from coaching in a variety of ways:

  • Finding focus for an individual development team member
  • Managing for accountability and follow through
  • Understanding communication and work styles individually and as a team
  • Supporting employees to determine what they need to be satisfied and successful in their jobs

Specifically, career coaching can help development directors land their ideal job, one that matches their skills with their compassion and that they can stay in long enough to have a significant impact.

Let’s keep asking the hard questions.

There are many factors that cause disengagement, unhappiness and ineffectiveness in the development director role.

I want to hear your thoughts. In the month of February, my colleague, Jeremy Hatch, a national fundraising consultant, and I will be discussing the predicament of development departments.


stefanieStefanie Krievins is the founder, coach and trainer at Radiancy Coaching Partners. She has a master’s degree in nonprofit management from SPEA at Indiana University, completed credentialed coaching training from Erickson International, and has more than a decade of employment and volunteering in the charitable sector in Central and Southern Indiana and nationwide. She lives in a low-income neighborhood in Indianapolis as a way to stay connected to the causes she’s most passionate about: homelessness, food insecurity and helping each person get the resources he/she needs to be their most joyful self.

“James” was a client who found the specific mission and role where he could contribute to the culture of philanthropy. When we first started working together he knew that helping kids was where he wanted to focus his career, but that’s a pretty broad scope for a job. He was already in a role where the organization helped kids, but in an indirect way, and felt stressed and unfilled. Everything seemed like an uphill battle.

His role for the nonprofit was extremely broad (annual fund, major gifts, marketing, special events, etc., etc.) and the organization wasn’t investing much in their fundraising beyond this one position. In essence, fundraising was just the job of the development director and it got done by hosting special events.

We worked together for a couple of months so he could determine that helping educate kids was the specific mission he wanted to be part of. He also wanted a more specific role that focused on corporate philanthropy or major gifts. It was an easy, “Yes,” when he interviewed for and was offered a job focusing on major gifts that funded international children’s education and healthcare.

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