I’m a professional Development Director & Major Gift Fundraiser looking for some peer advice. I recently accepted a new position with a small nonprofit, and while I’m overall thrilled with the position, mission, and team, I am feeling a bit daunted by the expectations that have quickly been placed on me. I’m looking for some perspectives on whether these expectations are “normal” and if not, how to respectfully push back while maintaining my professionalism.
I’ve been on the job for two months currently, and here are the things concerning me:
1.) I’ve been asked to develop and present a draft development plan to the Board this month, including fundraising projections (major gifts, midlevel, annual fund, corporate support and grants), a restructure of current giving programs, my tactical plan for raising the $1.5M needed to cover this year’s operating costs, and a plan for future sustainability/long-term fundraising success.
2.) I’m actually very excited to write the above plan in consultation with our Executive Director and board, but my concerns right now are: a) I’m still getting to know the organization and donor base b) data and recording keeping from previous years is somewhat limited c) I’m also being asked to write and submit grants, manage current funding campaigns & events, meet with prospects, etc., so I haven't been able to focus the time needed to develop a robust plan.
In retrospect, I should have managed my time better over the past two months to focus on strategic planning rather than these other items (my fault, I take accountability), but many of these items were also on nonnegotiable deadlines (i.e., grants due within my first weeks on the job, donor events that had already been scheduled).
3.) My question is: what is a normal industry expectation for crafting a strategic, thoughtful, and data-driven development plan for an organization? I’m committed to grounding anything I produce in reality, and don’t want to simply “wing it.” I want to submit an actional, data-driven plan that is realistic and defensible. Right now, this process feels rushed.
My second question/concern is what is a normal expectation for a Development Director to raise in her first year? I’ve been asked to raise $1.5 million by next summer. In reviewing our current donor base, I’ve discovered we only have 5 donors giving more than $25k/year, and only 1 giving $100,000. With time, I’m confident we can grow our prospect pool and build a robust pipeline of support, but for the first time in my career, I’m not at all confident I can meet our funding needs for the coming year.
Sorry to rant and vent a bit, but I’ve been wanting to discuss these concerns with other professionals in the field for feedback, particularly as to whether these are viable expectations in a new position. I’m also open to critique and feedback, and I acknowledge there are likely areas where I could be performing better in this role.
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