Development Director Job Description: Donor-Driven

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    I recently came across a salary review I received while in my 18th year as Director of Development of The Cleveland Orchestra. It was written by an Executive Director who was just finishing his first year with us. I quote the Executive Director’s comments from his written review (which was extremely favorable and was accompanied by a substantial salary increase). 🙂

    “I have more recently begun to understand, and more and more am I impressed, with your absolute concern with the wishes of the donor – a trait I do not possess, as I tend to overstate the needs of the institution.”

    When we began our relationship, he didn’t understand and wasn’t impressed with my donor-centered stance, nor was I appreciative of his organization-driven position. There were times when I did not expect to make it to that first performance appraisal.

    But, eventually, we began to see that the other was responding to the imperatives of his position. And, fortunately for me, (for him and for the Orchestra), he did begin to understand my donor-driven mindset, as I began to understand the need for his institution-driven perspective. But it was very close. So close, that for a time, I was certain I would not last the year.

    I survived, but too often that is not the case for other development officers in similar positions. You can “burn out,” get fired, move on to another job, or simply run out of time – and not be as fortunate as I was to have an enlightened executive director who had the integrity and class to make his startling admission in time !!

    Simply put, I believe there is a great deal of difference between the temperaments and the expectations that make for successful development officers and successful executive directors. Both MUST see and understand the other’s focus/priorities.

    Personally, I was at my very best when I functioned as the donors’ voice within the organization, bringing donor care and concern to staff and trustees. I could not be donor-driven development if I did not have an institution-centered Executive Director who understood the differences between our roles and perspectives, and (subsequently) provided the support I needed.

    I believe the forces at work in my situation have been and still are common to countless other EDs and DoDs. Where we grew to understand/appreciate the other’s perspective, in too many instances that is not the result. Too often, an ED’s narrowness of vision puts needless limits on an organization’s development officer(s) and on the organization’s ability to raise money.
    Have a question or comment for Tony? He can be reached at There is also a lot of good fundraising information on his website:
    Have you seen The Fundraising Series of ebooks ??
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