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The Lie That Won't Die

How long have you been in your current position? A year or two, three at the most, I’ll bet. People outside of the development profession are often amazed at the short tenure in this profession.

There have been scores and scores of hard working development staff who have been summarily knocked to their collective knees by those who aren’t knowledgeable about the work you do.

There may be a few good reasons for short stays, but overwhelmingly, the #1 reason is ineffective evaluation. In the 25 years I’ve worked in this field, I’ve met very few people who are lazy or incompetent. Mostly, the profession has effective, hard-working fundraisers trying to do good work.

Here are my solutions:

  • The profession as a whole has to educate board members, volunteers, program staff, and any other groups that it’s not simply about asking for money. So much more goes into it, doesn’t it?

  • The following may be something you want to share with those who do your evaluations: the damage done by development professionals who leave early is very harmful to a nonprofit organization’s long-term success. Mostly, it is not their fault, but the fault of those who judge their performance. Imagine a panel made up of a hockey player, Uber driver, gas station attendant, and chef getting together to judge a brain surgeon’s performance at a hospital. That divergent group would have very limited knowledge of medicine, wouldn’t you agree? The same goes in the development profession. Fundraisers are constantly being judged by people who don’t know the profession or worse, delude themselves into thinking they know it.

  • Leadership must stress that board members and anyone else involved in the evaluation process has to embrace the fundraising process. It’s foolish and unfair to think that someone who doesn’t understand the process can do a fair evaluation

The Upside:

Yes, there is an upside! When development officers know they will be fairly evaluated, they will feel more invested and will stay longer. This is a business of relationships and when fundraisers stay longer they build stronger relationships.

I have seen boards and leadership teams commit to this idea of understanding what development is all about. Believe me, it makes a difference when it comes to sustaining relationships with your donors and prospects.

Do you have any suggestions that you would like to add? We’d love for you to share them.

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