What’s In a Name? In Praise of Development


WONDERFUL post today from Amy Eisenstein on Nonprofit Job Titles.  Touch of humor and some really good points.  We’re seeing trends in all sectors that job titles are changing to be a little more fun, a little more descriptive – saw one the other day that was “Chief People Officer” and another one was “Head of Experience” for a guest relations post.

Cool stuff!  It’s a clever, clever world we’re living and perhaps we’re becoming a little less stuffy than we used to be.  And we’re thinking about what donors, guests and customers think about how we present ourselves to them.

All due respect to Amy (who is incredible and smart and generally right), she’s not the first one to talk about fundraiser’s job titles.

Claire Axelrad did it here on her blog.

The Veritus Group addressed it here on theirs.

Jeff Brooks hit us up with some actual research and data on the subject.   He is citing the inimitable Greg Warner at MarketSmart.

And Third Sector has some additional research on the impact of job titles.

Sounds like an idea whose time has come!  And Amy threw out some really clever, wonderful ideas.

But That Development Tho . . . 

I consider myself EXTREMELY fortunate to have had an amazing mentor for my first fundraising job.  1996 in Chicago, fresh out of graduate school, completely green and my boss in that first job took the time to teach and mentor me.  To this day I go back to ideas we discussed and things she said to encourage me in this new profession.

She was the first to introduce me to Designs For Fundraising and encouraged me to join NSFRE (which is now AFP).

And I will never, ever forget what she said when I asked why we were called the “Development” office:

“The story of the funding of an organization is the story of its development, its growth, its placement in the community.  That’s why what we do goes beyond fundraising, beyond the transactional.  It’s about fulfilling a mission and developing the vision and the solution to the problem we’re here to solve.  By working with donors for this organization, we’re DEVELOPING their vision and our mission.”

It’s been twenty-three years, I may have paraphrased a bit over the years, but that was the gist.

It’s why I’ve always been proud to be a DEVELOPMENT professional.  It’s a story I tell to donors and boards and leadership and program directors and the wonderful financial folks.  Our work isn’t just about raising funds, it’s about developing organizations and donors’ visions.

And I’m seeing more references to things like Resource Development, Fund Development, etc.  Yes, “Development” can be confused with the construction industry or web development or any number of things . . . but I’m proud to be a Nonprofit Development Professional.

And, no, maybe our titles aren’t donor-centric.  And maybe they don’t test well and DO indicate folks are reluctant to talk to us.  And, personally, I LOVE some of the clever ideas as Amy said.

But let’s claim our name and be proud of what it means that we do.   Let’s not equivocate; let’s develop organizations, missions, visions.  Let’s develop a better world and solve problems together.




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