5 Things I Wish I Had Known When I Started My Career In Development | Funding for Good

Successfully transitioning to a career in development includes a lot of skill-sets.

There are a few things that have remained paramount to the success of those I work with in all realms of development. Knowing these five things, and learning to do them well, is a great foundation for long-term success for a career in development.

1. The key to great development work is relationship building.

A career in development is about the relationships you build, the connections you make, and the time you put into building lasting ties. Whether you are grant writing, planning special events, growing a planned giving campaign, or thanking a donor, work on the relationships first. It will huge dividends in the end.

2. There are LOTS of hours spent on the phone.

A career in development involves trying to get appointments, thanking donors, confirming information, securing sponsorships, scheduling pick-ups, asking for volunteers, and the list goes on. The amount of time spent on the phone as a development staff is significant. It SHOULD be significant. Those calls will lead to meetings, lead to better relationships, lead to continued conversations and lasting impact. Don’t skimp on the phone time.

3. It’s all about who you know.

We hear this a lot growing up. But I find it to be very true with a career in development. Who you know can open doors for meetings, can help smooth the way for an introduction, can get in-kind donations more rapidly, will allow for easier conversations and often remove barriers. Who you know, and who your staff, board and volunteers know, can have a positive impact on your ability and success in the world of development. Do lots of networking!

4. Handwritten thank-you notes are a must.

For all things in life, and a career in development work is no different, a hand-written thank you note goes a long way. Always thank EVERY donor, at least once a year, with a hand-written and sincere thank-you note. It doesn’t have to be a novel. Do not use pre-printed notes with your signature. Write the notes individually.

5. Planting seeds today WILL reap a harvest, you just don’t know when.

Becoming a year-round fundraising executive is what I always strived for when I was working as a development professional. I was always planting seeds, putting out feelers, reaching out to new contacts, meeting with potential donors or partners, and building rapport with community organizations and businesses. There was a never ending supply of potential opportunities based on previously planted seeds. I encourage you to always be thinking ahead and planting seeds everywhere you can for the future needs you have not yet identified.

While these are but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to skills a successful development director will possess, they are a great place to start. For additional content on these topics, check out these blogs:

Are you ready to take your development work to the next level? Development Coaching may be the right step for you. Funding For Good offers custom coaching designed with your specific needs in mind.

  • Provide personalized support and strategy for your Executive Director or Development Director.

• Create a realistic and relevant development plan to fully fund your organization.
• Develop techniques to grow diversified fundraising streams though best practices.
• Maximize your time and energy to achieve upcoming goals.
• Work to deepen relationships to cultivate intense donor loyalty
• Design and implement tools to track goals/objectives as they relate to organizational financial development.

In the summer of 2017, I accepted an offer to be the Director of Development at a local nonprofit. I was excited about the job and the opportunity to serve the community but had absolutely no experience with fundraising, grants, or managing a donor base. Mandy was brought in to work with me and her experience and understanding of fundraising paid off immediately. Mandy is an incredible teacher and is passionate about helping others learn to build a sustainable, long-term donor base. I would recommend Funding for Good to any company who is looking to improve their development and fundraising results!

Jason Rogers, Director of Development

I became the Executive Director of Safe Harbor Rescue Mission in October of 2013 with absolutely no knowledge of grant writing or growing a development department. Mandy, with Funding For Good, Inc., was contracted to research and write grants for Safe Harbor in 2014, giving us a 192% increase in grant funding over the previous year. In 2015, I retained Mandy as a Development Coach. With Mandy’s coaching our revenue increased by 48% over 2014 and the knowledge I gained through her bi-weekly coaching was invaluable! I learned to cultivate relationships with Foundation program managers, city leaders, and potential donors. Mandy also helped me create a development plan, clean up our database and determine priorities. Because of the confidence, I gained through Mandy’s coaching; I weaned myself to one session per month in 2016 and our revenue increased another 33%! I highly recommend Mandy as a teacher and coach. She not only invests her knowledge, but she invests her heart and passion to create a better world.

Vicki Murray, Executive Director, Safe Harbor Rescue Mission

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