January 14, 2013
For years now, there has been widespread concern in the nonprofit sector about premature turnover of development directors, lengthy vacancies in the role, and the seemingly thin pool of qualified candidates from which organizations can choose. The development director is commonly labeled a "revolving door" position, and "the hardest to fill and retain" by executives, board members, funders, and capacity builders alike. Moreover, the challenge of assessing development director performance when so many factors influence an organization's fundraising success can leave executives and board members suspecting -- but uncertain -- that they could raise more money with someone else in the role. At the same time, development directors frequently lament the lack of consistent attention to fund development from executives, staff, and board members, rendering their job a frustrating set-up.To better understand these dynamics and to uncover potential solutions to the fundraising challenges nonprofits face, CompassPoint surveyed more than 2,700 executive directors and development directors across the country. Our sample includes a great diversity of organizations -- a wide range of budget and staff sizes, a multitude of mission types, and diverse geographic representation -- but the organizations have a critical commonality: a senior-level development staff person on their organizational chart, whether in place or currently vacant. We included both development directors and executive directors in this research because of their potentially distinct perceptions of the "revolving door" and its causes.Our bottom-line finding: Yes, there are considerable problems in the development director role across the sector, but there are also deeper challenges that undermine the ability of nonprofits to raise the money they need to succeed.In the following pages, this report illuminates what we learned about the specific dimensions of the staffing and organizational challenges, concluding with a set of recommendations to jumpstart a national conversation about what we all can do to help nonprofit organizations take their fund development to the next level.