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Fundraising Fundamentals, Section 3.3


Recruiting a Development Director

Recruiting a strong director of development is one of the most critical elements of starting a development office.

As with most senior-level positions, it will take time and can be challenging to find the right person to fill the role, especially if an institution is new to development activity. It is helpful if the director is recruited early on, so he or she can set the vision and strategy with intuitional leadership and lead the recruitment of other team members.

Recruit from the widest pool possible, looking at comparable sectors (charity, sales and marketing), overseas candidates and others who might have the skills and experience you are looking for. Avoid the trap of looking for someone who only has experience of established, large development offices, as that person may not have the innovative, entrepreneurial spirit to lead a start-up activity successfully.

Some skills and characteristics you need to look for are:

  • A track-record of successfully securing gifts, with the confidence to make asks and close deals,
  • An ability to develop strong interpersonal relationships and genuine interest in other people,
  • Good communications skills – speaking, writing and listening,
  • A strong strategic thinker,
  • Excellent management skills and the ability to motivate others and build strong teams,
  • Excellent organisational skills and the ability to absorb, process and prioritise large quantities of information,
  • A commitment to education and an empathy with academics and
  • Resourcefulness in the face of limited resources and staff.
Setting up Your Development Director for Success

To provide development directors with a strong basis from which they can succeed, ensure that honest and open discussions form part of the recruitment process. Be clear, not only about the skills desired and expectations of the role, but also about the status of development activities at the institution and the resources available.

Sharing information about the institution during the interview process will help to gauge the validity of the candidate’s vision and his or her ability to prioritise suggested strategies. It will also help the candidate develop realistic expectations around the role.

An early, strong induction programme will enable the director grow her knowledge of the institution rapidly and develop effective working relationships with colleagues. The director will need:

  • Regular and substantial input from the institution’s leadership and other senior colleagues,
  • Realistic expectations, as he will have a great deal of work to do before beginning to raise significant funds, and
  • Adequate resources and the basic tools to support development activities.

Action Items
  • Recruit the director of development early on when establishing an office.
  • Work closely with human resources – seeking the advice of other institutions and professionals – to clearly define the skills and characteristics of the desired director.
  • Be clear about your expectations and vision for the role when hiring.
  • Ensure the recruitment process is followed by a comprehensive induction period.

You Might Also Want to Read:

Reasonable expectations
Reporting lines and organisational structure
Measuring and managing performance
Recruiting the right people
Characteristics of a successful fundraiser


CASE provides in-depth human resources information on areas such as recruitment and hiring, orientation, diversity, workplace culture and sample job descriptions.

Doyle talks about setting goals for the first yet, measuring performance and setting expectations when hiring.
Doyle talks about where an institution can go for recruitment assistance.
Doyle talks about how to recruit a director of development.