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How to Build Your Nonprofit Development Team

Whether it’s a one-person department or a sprawling operation, a nonprofit’s development team carries a lot of weight on its shoulders. Gathering the funds an organization needs to keep the lights on and deliver its mission is no small feat, so building a world-class team is essential.

If you’re preparing to launch a nonprofit or are thinking about expanding your existing development department, here are a few tips that can help. 

1. Think carefully about the structure of your development team

As your development team expands, it’s no longer enough to have a handful of all-purpose fundraisers with no real hierarchy to speak of. To support your organization’s continued growth and success, it’s important to put in the work upfront to plan the structure of your development team—or teams, as the case may be. 

Look at your current workload and assess whether it’s time to break the department down into separate teams with unique responsibilities. For example, you might have one team that focuses solely on individual giving and another on corporate philanthropy. From there, think about what new positions you’ll need to create to support this new structure. Should you hire a Director of Donor Stewardship? Do you need different fundraisers to handle smaller gifts and large ones? What about legacy gifts? By having these conversations with stakeholders early, you can build your team more intentionally and ensure everyone is aligned in nurturing your growth.

2. Craft strong job descriptions that communicate your nonprofit’s vision

When you know what development roles you want to hire for, the next step is writing compelling job descriptions that encourage great candidates to apply. Make sure your nonprofit’s mission and vision are clearly communicated in your job posts. This can help you attract fundraising and development professionals who are passionate about your cause—one of the most valuable traits these professionals can have. 

To ensure you’re not limiting your talent pool and excluding exceptional candidates, work closely with relevant stakeholders to confirm that the requirements listed are actually essential to doing the job before you post it. If there are skills that would just be nice to have, or that can be learned on the job, consider listing them as merely “preferred,” rather than “required”—or removing them altogether. 

3. Tap your network to see who your connections know

Finding the right fundraising and development talent can be challenging. Luckily, your network can help. Chances are, at least one of your connections knows someone already working in this space who might be interested in joining your team, or someone in another field hoping to get into this profession, so don’t be afraid to let people know you’re looking. 

For more senior positions, your board or executive team may be the best people to ask for referrals, since their networks are likely made up of professionals at a similar level to themselves. For other roles, your staff, volunteers, and even peers at other organizations may have some good recommendations, so connect with them and see if they know anyone who might be worth speaking to.

4. Look for talent internally as well as externally

When a new role opens up, most organizations immediately start looking for external candidates. But unless your nonprofit is brand new, there’s likely a lot of great talent already inside your organization, so don’t forget to look within as you build your development team. 

Considering internal candidates for more senior positions on the development team is a meaningful way to let your people know that you want to support them in growing their careers at your nonprofit. You may also find that some employees are interested in making lateral moves, so be sure to circulate your job descriptions throughout the organization and let everyone know what roles you’re currently hiring for. 

5. Provide ongoing training and support to nurture potential

Once you’ve hired talent for your development team, focus on helping them reach their full potential. You can do this by providing a stellar onboarding experience, offering high-quality learning resources, and meeting with them regularly to understand what they need to be successful in their role. 

These efforts will also help you hold on to your best people. After all, building a winning development team is as much about retaining great talent as it is about finding it, so don’t neglect this critical aspect when planning your strategy.

Build your dream development team with LinkedIn

No matter what stage you’re at in building your development team, LinkedIn for Nonprofits can help. From planning your strategy to sourcing the right talent and showcasing your organization as an employer of choice, our hiring solutions can help you build a team that supports your nonprofit for years to come.

Find out more by contacting our team today.

Find exceptional nonprofit talent with LinkedIn for Nonprofits