I recently posted on Facebook that if an organization has a good development person, they should love ’em and hold ’em. I posted the status because, after a after a convo with one of my grantees, I realized that development people are special people. It’s not just years of experience but it really takes skills, mostly people-skills. I also posted the status because I wanted to give a shout out to my development friends and remind my nonprofit friends to not take their staff, or even just that particular position, for granted.
The conversation with my grantee’s development person (I don’t believe she’s a director level) was brief. Perhaps because it was the brevity that set me in a good mood and made me me realize how much I liked working with her. This got me thinking as to what makes a good development person. Here are some of my thoughts and what makes me feel warm and fuzzy about some of the development folks I work with:
1. A real development person is not just a grant writer. A real– and good– development person knows how to build– develop– relationship. They are people person that, even on the phone, they have a good EQ (emotional intelligent) and could read tones, especially mine. They know how to read between the lines to the point where they can help me help them.
2. They make my work easy. By that, I mean they make it easy for me to justify the recommendation. They are not just about asking how to get the money. They can talk about the project with passion that it makes me try to find a way to give them money and find other people to give them money.
3. They are real partners and don’t make me feel used. Ok, I am exaggerating. I would like to believe that the relationship doesn’t end with just the check. When I go to bat for an organization, it’s because I believe in them. Perhaps I’m just the sensitive type but I like to feel included, like a part of that community.
4. Much like in all relationships, communication is the key. As much as I would like to know about the fabulous stuff, I do want to know when there are challenges so that they can be corrected. A grant is an investment in the organization and the community. I want to make sure that the investment is successful. And, per #3, I really do view a grant as a partnership.
5. Good development people carefully read e-mails I so carefully wrote.
6. They listen well to instructions. The admin part of the grant is not fun but we all have to deal with it. See #5.
7. They check in once in awhile to see what’s up. I’m not high maintenance where I need someone to make sure I’m ok. But I often have random information that could be helpful that I don’t even know I know, e.g., you might be looking for funding for some program, I might know someone. I try to send helpful information as much as possible but because different grantees have different topic areas, I can’t send them all. But a good development person would call to just check in, tell me about what’s going on with their org and/or the community, and sometimes, I know random info or person that they might want to reach out to.
8. Not related to my relationship with them but just an observation: a good development person has other interests. The ones I know have some secret talent– maybe even life! Just kidding. Seriously, the good ones have other interests which not only broadens their creative process but also their network.
9. They are nice people who are nice to everybody. Whether or not they believe in Karma, 1) it probably comes back to them in some way and 2) the intern or receptionist today may be a donor one day.
10. They respect the process and apply just like all applicants, even if they do know a board member.
11. From an individual donor perspective, they know how to turn my $20 donation to a lot more. They recognize that even if I might not be able to donate a significant amount, I have other strengths– maybe even talents. I might not be able to give $10,000 donation but I have a big mouth that I talk about the organizations I love to various contacts who have the means.
12. They know when and what to ask. Don’t ask for a gajillion dollars if the project is really for $20,000. Then it’s just hard to take everything else you say seriously. Also, know when to ask. Someone started pitching me while I was waiting for my phone to get repaired at a T-Mobile store on a Friday night. Even if it’s The Best Project Ever, it’s going to be hard to see when I am waiting for my phone to get repaired at a T-Mobile store on a Friday night.
13. They believe in what they do, the organization, and the leadership. Not just one, but all three.