Note: This guest post is from Alyson Molloy Hussey, a development consultant and former development director. Thanks, Alyson!
A lot of organizations – maybe yours? – are perpetually looking for development staff. In Boston, where I work, there seems to be a shortage of professional fundraisers.
While conducting their staff search, nonprofits sometimes hire development consultants to fill the gap. In doing so, they may have inappropriate expectations of what a consultant can accomplish.
It’s not the same job
As a two-time development director and now a fundraising consultant, I’m here to tell you: it’s not the same job.
A director of development is a lot like the director of a play. She works with all the “actors” – direct service and administrative staff, the leadership team, the board. She sets the stage for the organization’s success. She writes the case for support, builds meaningful relationships, and makes sure that the nonprofit shines, while also managing all the logistics of a fundraising department.
As a donor to the organization, you might not even notice the development director. She’s often behind the curtain, giving cues and making sure all the actors know their lines and their places on stage.
What consultants can (and can’t) do for you
What can you expect from a development consultant that’s different from staff?
To continue the theater metaphor, a development consultant can help with rehearsals. She can give feedback, as an audience member, to the executive director, the cast, and the crew. A consultant will share experiences working with other organizations, suggest best practices, and offer a bird’s eye view. She can train you and help lay the foundation for fundraising success.
Here’s what your development consultant can’t do. She won’t eat, sleep, and dream your mission. She won’t work with you night and day, sitting through staff meetings and strategic planning sessions. She won’t cajole your program staff or hold the hands of reluctant board members.
Indeed, most consultants serve multiple organizations, all of which get a share of the available time. It’s not an exclusive relationship.
A field guide for distinguishing development directors from consultants
The following chart can help you clarify your expectations.
Director of Development
|Supervises development team||Provides training and advice to development team|
|Participates in the leadership or management team||Serves as a coach or adviser for senior leadership in the absence of a development director|
|Builds relationships with board members||Interviews board members to identify challenges and opportunities for building board fundraising capacity|
|Builds relationships with donors; oversees all aspects of donor stewardship||Advises CEO and other key staff and volunteers on donor relations; conducts role plays from a donor perspective; gives advice and best practices based on experiences with other organizations|
|Identifies and cultivates prospects||Offers advice and training on how to identify and cultivate prospects|
|Working with CEO and development committee, sets fundraising strategy, budget, and financial goals||Provides sample fundraising plans and templates; critiques development plan|
You might need both
In the lives most nonprofits, there are moments when you hire professional fundraising staff.
There are also times when you need the outside expertise that consultants can offer.
As you search for your ideal director of development – or if you’re looking to evaluate and re-energize your fundraising program – perhaps a consultant can help.