10 Ways to Kill
Your Development Department

Ann Fitzgerald President AC Fitzgerald author

Ann C. Fitzgerald, President

Every nonprofit CEO knows that fundraising is essential to a healthy organization. That’s why it’s important to guard against actions that can erode creativity and productivity among your fundraising team.

Here are 10 ways that we unknowingly “kill” the development department:

  • Treat fundraising with disdain. Don’t make it a central and important part of your nonprofit organization.
  • Have wildly unrealistic expectations. Expect one development person to dramatically increase contributions. Be sure to find the ultimate multi-tasker; someone who is equally proficient in meeting with donors, writing grant proposals, and managing the database.
  • Keep the board of directors small and at arm’s length. After all, a small board is easy to control, right? Don’t engage members in your vision or set expectations for involvement.
  • Build a wall between fundraising and program staff. Don’t foster communication or cooperation. Keep fundraisers in the dark about program impact or new initiatives.
  • Don’t define roles or goals. Expect all staff to “pitch in” so no one has a sense of individual accomplishment. And don’t set targets, measure progress or offer incentives.
  • Waste time on low-value activity. Use busy work as an excuse for not arranging meetings with major gift prospects.
  • Communicate inconsistently with donors. Make them guess how their money is being spent so that it’s difficult to ask for renewed support.
  • Don’t invest in training. Let staff learn about fundraising on the fly.
  • Maintain systems that are complex and bureaucratic. Make it chore to enter or extract information from the donor database.
  • Remain isolated. Ignore the individuals, organizations or networks that can build your brand and increase your philanthropic knowledge.

Ann C. Fitzgerald is Founder and President of AC Fitzgerald, using her decades of experience in fundraising, management, leadership, and sales to help nonprofits build their capacity and achieve success. She is a sought-after speaker, writer, and advisor.

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