A Good Development Officer is Hard to Find

A Good Development Officer is Hard to Find

September 22nd, 2011

by Kris Kindelsperger


Unemployment is hovering at more than 9%. Significant layoffs have been seen in recent years in the nonprofit sector.  Many organizations are fighting for their financial lives.  So, how is it possible that some organizations claim that they cannot find qualified candidates for development positions?

The overall turbulence in the economy is causing many good candidates to hold tight and not make any moves at all.  Professional search firms will tell you that two-career couples are reluctant to move for fear that a spouse will be unable to find a job in today’s market.  Candidates who own homes may be underwater in their mortgage or concerned that they will be unable to sell their existing home.  The recession has put downward pressure on salaries making some moves less financially attractive.

As we have worked to help clients fill open development positions, we have seen several visible trends at work in the advancement job market:

A bird in the hand – Many of the best qualified professionals are not “in the market” for positions.  They have a good situation and are sticking with it.

Home Sweet Home – Some qualified candidates are not willing to relocate, especially to smaller communities, even for a significant career advancement.

Great Expectations – The expectations of some presidents/CEOs/boards for quick fundraising results are scaring away the best candidates.

What can you do about this?

  • Many organizations are working harder to home-grow their staff.  Forward looking managers are doing more hiring and promoting from within to build future leadership.
  • Good major gift officers are hard to find, so some organizations are more willing to experiment with individuals with sales and marketing backgrounds, as long as they embrace the mission of the organization.
  • Lots of organizations are finding that their candidate pools are shallow so they have to exercise patience and be prepared to look longer and harder to find the right person.

One benefit of the recession is that new candidates are looking at the nonprofit industry who may not have in the past.  They look to the nonprofit world today as a safe haven from the perils of the economic storm ravishing many for-profit companies.  If they really care and believe in what you do, they may be the right person for the job at the right time.

Whatever your situation, remember three things:

  1. Don’t settle for second best hoping that the person will somehow work out, they seldom do.
  2. Do hire for the personality and work ethic characteristics necessary to do the job.  The resume can’t tell you this part of the human equation.
  3. Do pay attention to your instincts about fit and dedication to your culture and mission. 


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