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5 Tips for Starting Your First Chief Development Officer Position

By Tycely Williams posted 08-08-2022 13:59


Congratulations! Your hard work paid off.

Your Chief Development Officer title is not who you are or an indication of success or failure. You were competent and capable before this promotion. Undoubtedly, you will be stronger and wiser after this commitment concludes.

Yet, with this present opportunity, you will only exceed expectations with a courageous activation of authenticity. You were chosen because of your unique strengths.

As you prepare to plan your work and work your plan, may these five tips broadly influence your beliefs and positively impact your behavior.

For these five tips to ring true, integrate wisdom from your lived experiences, rely on your expertise to sharpen the guidance, and hold on to your emotional intelligence as you move from advice to application.

Lead With Integrity
You are now the leader who holds positional power. You are the strategist who must craft pathways to fundraising victories and shape an affirming and healthy culture.

The first meaningful measure is not how much money you and your team will raise. The most important indicator of your success is linked to your integrity. Prominently position your integrity to place people as your primary priority.

When you prioritize people, you bolster your positional power to create optimal conditions for people to be healthy and happy.

Learn Every Day
You are a leader who values the importance of lifelong learning. You possess an innate curiosity that challenges the status quo. You invent new ways to solve problems, while helping people better understand what is possible, probable, and predictable.

The learning will come from more than the calculation of retention rates and the inputs to increase pipelines. Seek to learn from those who consider you the teacher. Actively invite people to instruct, showcase, model, and lead.

Your role is not to do it all.

Your responsibility is to create safe spaces and painless places for others to demonstrate how to partner with you to solve problems, bridge shortfalls, and sustain social impact. Commit to learning something every day about relationships, fundraising, and most importantly, loyalty.

Lighten the Load of Others
You must continue to lead with integrity, learn every day, and lighten the load of others. Just as you craft your organizational value proposition, you must also define how, when, where, and why you add value.

“How are you feeling?”, is the most important question to pose throughout the day—to yourself and others. When you adjust tactics, negotiate outcomes, reconfigure plans, onboard and offboard staff, engage with board members, and solicit stakeholders, be cognizant of how you feel and the emotional state of others.

Your positional power brings access to resources. When people report stress and strain, swiftly allocate financial resources, and strategically deploy human resources.

Don’t equate supports with weakness. Every person and predicament benefits from assistance. When you lighten the load of others—people will reciprocate. The enormity of what weighs you down will soon decrease.

Lift Up the Importance of Inclusion
Integrity, learning, and attenuating must be paired with a willingness to provide equal access to all people for all things. Diversity and difference abound.

The role and responsibilities also intertwine the rights of others to be treated fairly and in accordance with the same exceptions, exemptions, and excuses you grant regardless of age, race, ability, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, language, religion, or other identity marker.

You can tolerate diversity and lack the knowledge or commitment to practice inclusive leadership. Actively ponder which voice, perspective, or approach may be excluded or marginalized with each topic, assignment, project, or opportunity.

Be intentional. Empower, encourage, and emulate people who have yet to influence organizational norms. Make sure your words and deeds are inclusive.

When like me, you fall short, remember you are a lifelong learner. You don’t know everything. Some people and most situations are avenues for self-reflection and correction.

Leverage Each Win
You are a winner. You know what it takes, and it takes what you already know. You win so often, you forget the sheer number of hours, overlook the relentless work ethics of people, and sometimes unknowingly pass over public appreciation.

Your strategic mindset elevated you to this seat. Don’t look too far into the future; you forget the presence of today. This morning someone wrote a winning grant proposal. This afternoon someone secured a transformational investment. This evening someone will steward your next generation of volunteers. Find a way to acknowledge and applaud individual and collective victories.

With a renewed sense of awareness, you are ready to lead with integrity, learn every day, lighten the load of others, lift up the importance of inclusion, and leverage each win.

Here’s to a great Chief Development Officer—may we be one, know one, grow one, and show one the way to succeed.