One of my first observations in development was that you’re only as good as those that surround you. Building relationships with donors is hard work. It takes a lot of time and energy! And, the pressure, especially at the beginning, can be pretty overwhelming. If I have one piece of advice for anyone new to this field it would be: don’t try to do it alone! It’s so important to have a great support network to guide you, support you and just plain complain to!
One of the first smart things I did was to connect with my fellow development directors that were hired around the same time. We started a group that met (and continues to meet) at least every other week, and always when one of us needs to talk. We each brought different skill sets to the group and we were able to help each other navigate the often choppy waters of development. They have kept me sane, encouraged me, listened to me, and were always there when I really needed someone to talk to. Without this network, my experience as a development director would have been much different – and definitely much less fun!
I was also fortunate to be assigned to a college with a seasoned development director. She became my mentor and helped me learn all the facets of raising major donations for a very busy college. This was, and continues to be, the best experience for me and one that I would recommend to all development departments. Assign your new development personnel to an experienced director – and give that experienced director recognition and reward for going the extra mile to build a dynamic, knowledgeable team.
Finally, having a strong support team that is always ready and willing to help get the job done is so important. Development personnel usually have pretty ambitious metrics that they have to meet. We’re supposed to be out of the office and meeting with donors – as much as possible! This is where your support team can really make a difference. They can get things done so that your donors don’t even know when you’re travelling and when you’re in the office – it’s seamless.
In a recent Fundraising Success article titled “Major Gifts Fundraising: You Need a Friend” author Jeff Schreifels touched on the need to have a friend in this business. He mentioned how grateful he is for the people along the way who helped him in his life and career. I wholeheartedly agree! And, I want to take this opportunity to thank all those people who have guided me both personally and professionally! You know who you are!!
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