May 10, 2016
For some reason, the words of the Whitney Houston track, “How Will I Know?” came to mind as I pondered the question, “How will I know if our new Director of Development is doing a good job?” The head teacher asking me this question had clearly ‘fallen in love’ with the idea of having a Director of Development and had been bowled over by the individual who was appointed. However, the reality of managing a fundraising professional had now become clear to this educational leader. This was new territory. The head teacher knew how to manage teachers, knew what the performance indicators should look like, and knew exactly ‘what good looks like’ for a teacher on the team. None of this applied to managing a fundraiser. This leader had no points of reference and no way of knowing what realistic expectations should be. This leader was committed to the concept, but ignorant as to the reality.
The head teacher also asked, “What will the Director of Development need from me?” This leader was acutely aware that success didn’t rest alone with the new Director of Director; the head teacher had a crucial role to play. This person knew what teaching colleagues needed in terms of leadership and support, but yet again, was unclear as to what a fundraiser might need.
In the absence of clear expectations and under pressure to see a return on investment, there is a danger that the success of a new Director of Development will be measured in the wrong way. Either an unrealistic fundraising target will be set (too much in too short a period of time), or conversely, too long will be spent on ‘friend raising’ before the fundraising begins. This situation is heightened when the Director of Development lacks experience and needs support to set the right goals for his or her work. Given the shortage of experienced fundraisers, a ‘bright young star’ or an experienced professional from another sector will tempt many institutions. This doesn’t have to be a recipe for disaster, but it needs to be approached with caution and support for both the head teacher and the Director of Development in creating strategy, agreeing performance indicators, and setting targets.
The magic formula would be to provide strategic counsel to the head teacher in the form of a head teacher who has fundraised before, and support for the Director of Development from an experienced fundraising professional. With this magic formula in mind, the Graham-Pelton team includes former head teachers and Directors of Development. We work closely with our clients to develop strategy, set realistic targets and performance indicators, and manage board and trustee expectations.
-Susie Hills, Managing Director