Top Ten Characteristics of an Effective Development Office

arthur_225Arthur L. Criscillis, Ed.D., Partner

I was asked by a client to join the staff for their yearly planning retreat and was asked to do a presentation on the top ten characteristics of effective development programs. While I have given a great deal of thought to what makes a development program excel, I had never really tried to list those traits that characterize truly effective operations. Well, I put pen to paper and began to list them. I found that I came up with more than ten, but knew that I had to prioritize them and had to eliminate some. When it came time for me to do the presentation at the retreat, I began by asking each of those attending to do their own list and then went around the room, asking them to indicate what they considered to be most important. They came up with some that I listed, some that I had considered but chose not to put in the top ten and some that I had not considered and could well bump some that I had included. In short, it was a learning exercise for me and for them. I then shared my list, which is given below:

10. Committed to developing yearly and long-term plans that align with the institution’s strategic plan and priorities.

9. Develop effective partnerships with Board, President, communications, admissions and athletics.

8. Work collaboratively internally without losing focus on specific areas of responsibility.

7. Effectively and appropriately utilize volunteers.

6. Rigorous evaluation of programs and initiatives to effectively allocate limited resources.

5. Create and articulate a powerful case for support.

4. Committed to demonstrating effective donor appreciation.

3. Develop and utilize measured, meaningful performance metrics.

2. Value and insist on professional development of staff (conferences, professional networks and on-site visits).

1. Understand and practice development, rather than simply doing “fundraising.”

I am guessing that you would include some that I have not included. And I would like to invite you to share with me what you think should have been included, but isn’t. And, if you take issue with one or more that I have included, feel free to let me know that as well.