Kate Sell is senior partner specializing in strategic management

I hear this from clients all the time – “Can’t our executive director also be our development director? Can’t we kill two birds with one stone and save the money on hiring a development director?” My quick and firm answer is always NO! One stone does not kill two birds – it just wounds them both.

It really comes down to a proper understanding of the importance and function of each role. The primary role of the executive director is to lead the organization at the direction of the board, manage staff and run the day-to-day operations. With most small to mid-size organizations, the ED position is usually very broad in scope and ends up being an enormous job that extends far beyond 40 hours a week.

The role of a development director is not only to raise funds for the organization, but also to build and grow the overall fundraising infrastructure such as database management, event planning and ongoing cultivation of donors.  The position of development director requires a particular kind of focus to both manage the operations of fundraising and invest in the personal attention required to cultivate major donors.  In order for this job to be accomplished as it should for the financial health of the organization, it requires particular focus far outside for the ED job scope.

In my 15 years consulting with non-profits at all levels, I have never seen a combination of executive director/development director work successfully – ever.  Combing roles does a disservice to both positions and the individuals who have little chance of meeting success. One sure way to exhaust a leader is to give them two jobs. Neither job will get done well and the individual will burn out, and neither of these are desired outcomes for the organization.

Organizations cannot be afraid to invest in good leaders who bring different skill sets and value to the organization. Yes, two executive-level positions cost money, but the long-term costs of this frugality will be much more extensive and damaging, not to mention the cost that will be paid by the moral within the organization, the confidence lost by constituents and the time lost in not achieving the organization’s mission.




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