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The top five fears of development directors

By March 1, 2016July 6th, 2022Steier Tips

Launching a campaign can seem daunting. Through the years, we’ve faced plenty of challenges that have the potential to derail campaigns and haunt development directors. Here are some of the top fears of development directors and how to overcome each:

  1. A Bad Donor Database: You don’t want to go to a cupboard you think is stocked only to find nothing on the shelves. Donors come and go, so your database must be equally fluid. An outdated donor database wreaks havoc on a campaign. When there is no list of potential donors and no giving history, it makes accurate donor evaluation almost impossible. Invest the time and energy now to make sure your database is “well stocked.”
  2. Donor Fatigue: We hear often from development directors, “Our donors are tired.” Donor fatigue is a real thing, and properly timing your campaign is critical. Use your non campaign years to thank your donors and engage them in your mission. And remember that donors don’t mind being asked to support a worthy cause.
  3. Upsetting Donors: We all know the rule: 80 percent of funds come from 20 percent of donors. Upsetting even one donor in that 20 percent can undermine the success of an entire effort. Keeping everyone happy, all the time, is unrealistic. But we have found that you can avoid most contentious issues by genuinely listening to your donors when they express concerns. You may not save them as a donor, but you can keep them from becoming an adversary.
  4. Unrealistic Goals: Campaign goals can escalate quickly. Often leadership has the best of intentions when trying to tackle as much as possible during a campaign. But the fact is a $4 million project might be feasible, while a $6 million project may not be. Always conduct a planning study to determine what your organization is capable of accomplishing. Your organization, campaign leaders, volunteers and donors need to claim victory after a campaign. You can triumph together by setting appropriate goals and helping to define success.
  5. Missing the Goal: Failing to reach your goal is the most common fear of any development director. A campaign, regardless of its size, is a stressful time. Expectations are high, as a lot rides on the campaign’s success. When things don’t go as planned, fall back on your core group of volunteers and supporters and, if necessary, adjust your timeline. If you have a well-designed plan and commit to making the campaign a priority, you will hit your goal.


Recruiting Volunteers:

    Volunteers can be hard to recruit. When the goal of a campaign is to meet personally with top donors, having only a few volunteers can make this task daunting. Let your future volunteers know that the idea of asking people for a campaign gift isn’t as hard as it sounds and can be quite rewarding. Training volunteers on how to conduct personal solicitation meetings is key to their strong understanding of the process and willingness to assist. People give to people, which is why this is such a vital piece of any effort.

Nothing is quite as scary when it is done with a team. The Steier Group provides clients with a team, working both on and off site, giving much needed direction during a campaign. This team makes sure that all parts of the campaign are reviewed and executed in a way unique to the organization and works tirelessly to inspire support among donors. Our firm has served more than 750 clients and draws from the experience of 60 full-time professionals who specialize in every aspect of a campaign. Your success is just as important for us as it is for you.

Don’t let fear paralyze your fundraising efforts. I encourage you to contact me with any questions you may have regarding the professional services offered by the Steier Group.