Building a development team can be challenging. You may find yourself wading through piles of resumes looking for that perfect candidate or constantly evaluating current team members for those who might be able to fill an unmet need. To create the ideal team for your organization, look at the process as an opportunity to reinforce what makes your workplace a rewarding place to work.

1. Hire to fit your culture.

During the recruitment process, many development shops begin by looking for candidates who fit the job description. While this is a great starting point, it is important to consider candidates who will best fit within your team and the organization as a whole.

Is your culture traditional or conservative? Look for someone who refers to you by your formal title and understands the importance of your organization’s hierarchy. Is your team a bit more relaxed? Consider someone who is easygoing and able to move with the natural ebb and flow of the group.

Remember—many times job skills can be taught more easily than molding someone to fit your unique culture.

2. Make trust a key aspect.

Trust is critical for all team members. It allows for free-flowing ideas, which can improve your processes and programs. It also creates a sense of camaraderie, which allows development professionals to work as a team toward a common goal, rather than focusing solely on their personal tasks and goals.

Building trust takes a lot of work, especially if there are current trust issues. Communicate that trust is a key initiative for all current and future team members. Then, be consistent with your words and actions to instill the model of behavior you expect from others.

3. Measure what’s truly important.

Metrics play a critical role for any development team and drive behavior for all team members. Rather than tracking what was historically measured, re-evaluate and determine what metrics will truly benefit your development team and, in turn, your organization.

For example, a team from Northwestern University refocused their performance metrics, which resulted in a 211% increase in the number of major gifts raised and a 595% increase in dollars raised. By readjusting the metrics to increase donor engagement and measure what was truly meaningful, they were able to increase both donor satisfaction and overall productivity. Success came from placing the emphasis not on producing numbers, but on making connections.

Ultimately, successful fundraisers are those individuals who derive deep satisfaction from connecting donors to philanthropic opportunities. As one development professional put it, “I just want to make a difference. I just want to help make the world a better place, and if I can help people do that, what a joyful job that is.” Choosing an individual who fits into the culture of your workplace and demonstrates the values of your organization will provide growth opportunities for both that individual and your development team.


Download Competencies for Major Gift Professionals—a structured approach to assess skills among prospective new major gifts officers.