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why hire a professional interim development director?


No matter how successful your organization’s fundraising efforts have been, transitioning a development director always slows your momentum. Consider a Professional Interim Development Director (PIDD) to increase the success of your development department.

In the best situation, it takes months to hire a new development director. The cost of going without fundraising leadership can far outweigh the cost of hiring a seasoned professional when you are going through a transition.  An experienced PIDD, will set your organization up for long-term success. Studies have shown that organizations that use a PIDD have more success in hiring and keeping a permanent development director.

Fundraising is about relationships. As a PIDD, donor relationships are maintained at all giving levels. Stewardship – keeping donors up to date on how their gifts are being used – means a great deal to your donors.  Your most important donors will notice when the information gap becomes too wide.

Foundation, corporate, and government granting organizations have firm, non-negotiable deadlines for submissions, reports, and renewals. Missing a deadline can mean going up to a year or more without much needed support.  And while it is hard to measure, a good deal of opportunity is lost if new proposals are not continuously in the pipeline.

Good fundraising is fueled by data which must be kept up to date: budgets, giving records, return on investment for fundraising activities, continuous evaluation of the effectiveness of various funding streams, tracking ongoing donor relationships, etc. And all of this data has limited usefulness without the expert interpretation that an interim director of development is able to provide.

Even the most competent staff needs day-to-day supervision to coordinate their multiple areas of responsibility. An interim development director can provide ongoing support and make it easier for the staff to work effectively with the Executive Director and the Board.

Appointing an in-house acting director is not the answer. An in-house acting development director will more than likely be auditioning for the job and leave if not permanently hired for the position. You may have to deal with an awkward situation, including a drop in staff morale, if you hire someone from the inside. And, how realistic is it for that person to be doing two jobs? A PIDD has no expectation of getting the position. An objective outsider, who is not a candidate for the position is the best choice.

The PIDD can assist with recruitment, selection and orientation of your permanent development director, saving the organization from hiring an outside firm. The PIDD can move into a coaching role for a short time and share the insights gained during the transition period, reducing the time for even the most qualified new development director to get up to speed. This adds to the success of the permanent development director to help increase longevity.

When a leader leaves, the development department is much more open to change. This is a time when systems and culture can be analyzed and improved. Fresh perspective and bringing in nonprofit best practice is paramount. PIDDs are able to build opportunities and keep a neutral zone.

With the PIDD, you can use the transition to reassess your fundraising efforts. A lot has been written about the high turnover rate among fundraisers; research has shown that some of the major causes are unrealistic expectations and lack of support from the rest of the organization. This is a good time to work with an objective outsider who can identify problem areas and help you make changes, if necessary, before investing in a new full-time staff member.

Alisa Chatinsky is principal of NPO Success, LLC a consulting firm committed to helping nonprofits attain their next level of success.

“She is passionate about serving vulnerable populations. Alisa follows both her passion and nonprofit best practice to help organizations grow.”

Alice Jones

Vice Chair, Daring Adventures

“I certainly appreciate Alisa’s willingness and efforts.”

Mark Jones

Chief Development Officer, Children's Defense Fund

“Interim EDs are not simply board members or staff who sit in the executive director’s seat for a few weeks or months until a new director is found. Interim EDs are highly skilled managers who temporarily take the helm of an organization (four to eight months on average), help the board and staff address important systems and capacity issues, and lay the groundwork for the permanent leader’s success…”

© 2005, The Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, Annie E Casey Foundation
CompassPoint Nonprofit Services
Executive Transitions Monograph Series, Vol. 2

“It all went so well, thanks to Alisa!”

Nora Hannah

Chief Executive Officer, Experience Matters