What is the Role of a Development Officer ?

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Sections of this topic

    First, going back to the definition of “development,” it is the creation, nurturing, and maintaining relationships that (ideally) engender charitable contributions.

    If that is a Development Officer’s basic role, how does that apply to the various roles that they play ??

    So, let’s start with the Development Officers who function in a limited arena – and there are different titles/designations for the various functions.

    The Grant Writer, doesn’t just sit and write grant proposals. S/he must interact with board and staff members to determine what programs need or may need funding – and, to be effective in that aspect of the role, there must be solid internal relationships.

    The Grant Writer must then conduct research to determine which foundations have interest in and might fund the (proposed) needy programs. The next step is contacting the foundation, possibly a program officer, to determine what would have to be done to get the foundation to want to fund the program. That’s the part that involves creating and nurturing a relationship with foundation staff-and-or-board.

    Whether or not a grant proposal is successful, the Grant Writer will want to maintain a relationship with the staffers/board-members of the foundation with an eye toward future funding.

    A similar role to that of the Grants Writer is the Corporate Relations Officer. S/he needs to determine which Corporate Officers and/or Board Members would have an interest in the nonprofit’s programs, in supporting the organization, in being visibly associated with the organization and/or in having the corporation visibly associated with the NPO.

    Again, it’s all about creating, nurturing and maintaining relationships. And, let me emphasize, the relationships are with people, not foundations or corporations.

    A Director of Special Events (and this does not include so called “fund raisers) may be the expert at the behind the scenes logistics for events … working with venues and vendors; but, the people who make an event successful are those who can get others to attend/pay the ticket price, to support/contribute to the event, to lend the prestige of their social/business/political positions to getting others to want to participate/contribute/attend.

    The Director of Special Events helps to create and nurture the relationships with the movers-and-shakers, without whom there would be no event.

    Some organizations have a Development Officer in-charge of their Direct Mail Program; and this, too, is about relationships. It’s not about sending “junk mail” to people who wouldn’t even open the envelope. A major part of this person’s job is to identify who would respond positively to solicitation mail from his/her organization. It’s testing mailing lists; testing the content of the mailing pieces; and, testing the timing of how often people are sent a solicitation. All that is about determining who the people are that you can establish a relationship with that will result in ongoing support for the nonprofit.

    And it is a relationship. Those supporters will gain great satisfaction at helping the people you help, at being part of your “family,” at getting the thank you, the recognition for helping make something happen, for being part of your “family.”

    A Major Gifts Officer must (directly or indirectly) create/maintain/enhance relationships with (potential) major donors. I wont’ beat this to death, since I’ve written extensively on major gift fundraising. But, I hope, by now, you get the idea.

    In closing, I’ll talk about one other role, that’s the Chief Development Officer – whether it’s a Director of Development, a VP of Advancement, or other such title, that person must have the experience/expertise gained by having served in other development roles.

    This person is all about relationships; and, in the planning of the various “fundraising” programs, must ensure that all development staff, other organizational staff, board members and volunteers are educated as to the importance of relationship building, maintaining and enhancing.

    Next week I hope to address the Executive Director’s role in the Development/Fundraising process.

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