Being a good director of development is not easy. The good one’s not only take on the responsibility of making sure that there is cash flow to pay the bills and keep the lights on, but they make sure there is reservoir of fresh, new ideas and approaches that will energize donors from one month to the next.
The best development directors I know are always probing, asking, and searching for the next big appeal, issue or format that is going to improve their results. To be honest with you… the best development directors can be exhausting (I can say that because I spent more than a decade in the D.O.D’s chair… and yes, I was exhausting). Great development directors are relentless in their quest for the next big idea… they never drop an appeal in the mail without knowing what the next appeal will be to energize their donor base.
In the old days we used to call it “keeping your cash flows peaking”. The term came from the model of rolling out the next appeal of a campaign on the day your income has peaked from the previous appeal… so as revenue begins to trail off from appeal #1 you have your next mailing in home so that results begin climbing to the next peak of appeal #2. The process continues every 3 to 5 weeks on and on and on…
Today, with so many “channels” to deploy for each appeal, many D.O.D.’s get so bogged down on the procurement process that they no longer take the time to “think” about the new ideas that will be required for next month, next quarter, next year… The foresight required by a good development director to coordinate appeals in a particular campaign or season is often lost to creating the mechanics to echo each appeal in corresponding newsletters, websites, emails, social networking, telefunding, search engine marketing, events, major gift meetings, just to name a few other channels. Don’t let this happen to you. Delegate the details of procurement or outsource it to a partner you trust. Great development directors do not stay down in the trees… they rise above the mechanics of procurement to “think” about the strategy and think about the future appeals coming down the pike.
Great development directors make the time to THINK! They think outside the box and they think about issues, appeals and their needs through the eyes of their donors and supporters. I like what politico and campaign fundraiser Joe Garecht says, “Great development directors believe in the mission of the organization they are working for, and are willing to step out front and forge a strategy for resourcing the future needs of the organization. Successful development directors are decision makers. They make decisions, take initiative, and bear responsibility for both successes and failures.”
Great D.O.D.’s are not afraid to think on their feet. They embrace problems and challenges and figure out how to get things done, even when great obstacles move in their path. Yahoo’s Seth Godin calls this “shipping”. He calls people who make adjustments mid-course “shippers”. (As in figuring out how to ship products out the door in a business). A great development director “ships”… he or she figures out how to get things done.
You may not be a development director, but rest assured if you work for a not-for-profit or for a business that serves them, you will be more successful if you too begin “thinking” like your development director. Directors of development are truly the heart and soul of ministry, charitable and not-for-profit organizations. Being a great development director is a decision that any development director can make. Start “thinking” like a development director…