Show A Development Pro Some Love

There’s a wonderful post from Joe Patti over at Butts In The Seats titled Info You Can Use: Development Directors Need Love Too that examines the dangerously high levels of career unhappiness among development professionals. We examined the very same topic here back on 1/22/2013 and it’s good to see other folks picking up on the topic. In short, we can’t expect this predicament to get much better if it doesn’t become a priority.

Once fascinating bit from Patti’s post, which references a report available at titled Under Developed: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising, is the statistic that a quarter of all development directors in the study were novices or had no experience in the field.

That’s quite a telling statistic and demonstrates the lopsided balance between need vs. availability. It also made me think back to a military sociology course from my college days where we examined the negative impact on US Armed Forces effectiveness during the Vietnam War in the wake of a conflux of conscription, inadequate training, negative internal culture, and extreme need.

At its all time low, some frontline US soldiers were being deployed without rifles because they didn’t have minimum training and/or were considered high risks due to a lack of internalizing military culture. Yet bodies were needed so they were still deployed. Inserting a handful of enthusiastic, yet inexperienced, volunteers into the mix didn’t have much positive impact and those individuals were more likely to get pulled into negative culture cycles than the other way around.

It should come as no surprise that the ordeal was a strong factor in the decision to eliminate conscription and adopt the all volunteer model currently in place.


Adaptistration People 021Frankly, I don’t expect the nonprofit arts development career track to get better in the immediate future, but on a positive note it will likely improve on its own as the economy recovers. However, that time frame could be reduced by adopting a number of recommendations, many of which are identified in the report.

But one of the crucial items missing from the report’s recommendations, at least in a direct sense, is improving workplace satisfaction. We can develop programs that produce the very best fundraisers in the world but if we don’t focus on simultaneously making nonprofit offices desirable places to work, attrition and apathy will continuously add the second step back to each step forward.

If nothing else, let’s at least make today a good day in the office by taking a moment to show your development colleagues some love by showing some support and appreciation.

[ilink url=”” style=”download”]Download Under Developed: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising.[/ilink]

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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