Learn About Being a Development Director

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published December 10, 2019

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

What does a development director do?

A development director implements and manages an organization’s fundraising efforts. Development directors usually work for nonprofit organizations, but they may also work for any business that raises funds. They work closely with their employer’s chief financial officer or treasurer. Some of their regular responsibilities include:

  • Developing an annual fundraising strategy and revising it where appropriate

  • Forming and maintaining relationships with potential and existing individual and corporate donors

  • Identifying grant opportunities and applying for them if the employer does not have its own grant writer

  • Planning and managing fundraising events

  • Working with the marketing team to develop materials to promote fundraising efforts

  • Reporting results of fundraising efforts to stakeholders

Average salary

Development directors typically work a full-time schedule. Bonuses and profit-sharing arrangements can help further boost development director salaries. Salaries vary according to the employing company, location, experience and education. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary link.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $101,782 per year

  • Some salaries range from $14,000 to $203,000.

Development director requirements

Development directors need at least a bachelor’s degree and some experience working in fundraising. Excellent interpersonal skills also help development directors secure their positions and succeed in their careers, including:

Education

There are few undergraduate degrees in fundraising, so most development directors gain a bachelor’s degree in a related discipline. These disciplines may include:

  • Nonprofit administration

  • Public administration

  • Communications 

  • Business

These course programs teach aspiring development directors about business practices, organizational management and financial management. A nonprofit administration degree’s focus on applying business principles to a nonprofit setting can be especially beneficial for aspiring development directors.

Many development directors also pursue a master’s degree in fundraising to improve their skills and chances of securing their ideal position. These degrees teach aspiring development directors about producing campaigns, applying for grants and strategic planning.

Training

Many aspiring development directors start their training while they are still studying through internships, or they might volunteer with nonprofits. These placements can allow aspiring development directors to network with donors and see how nonprofits operate and generate funds.

After graduation, working as a development associate provides the on-the-job training required to become a development director. This role gives aspiring development directors experience with the following tasks: 

  • Planning events

  • Building and nurturing relationships with donors

  • Writing grant proposals

Most development associates spend between four and 15 years gaining experience in fundraising before becoming development directors. During this time, many aspiring development directors attend networking events to become more comfortable making connections with other people.

Certifications

Certification is voluntary, but many employers prefer hiring Certified Fund Raising Executive International professionals. Gaining certification can help development directors gain employment, especially at prestigious companies, and secure higher salaries.

Applicants must usually join the certifying organization before applying for CFRE certification. Additionally, most certifying bodies require applicants to complete at least 80 hours of relevant education and work in fundraising for at least three years. Certification is granted after paying a fee and passing a 200-question multiple-choice exam. Development directors must reapply every three years and pursue ongoing education to stay certified.

Skills

Development directors get the opportunity to improve their natural talents and skills while working in fundraising positions. The following abilities help development associates transition into directorial roles:

  • Strong written and verbal communication skills: Development directors use their communication skills to persuade others to donate money and time to their fundraising efforts. They often speak publicly and write persuasive documents to secure funds.

  • Interpersonal skills: Development directors usually have vibrant, engaging personalities. Their strong interpersonal skills help them work well with donors, their organization’s employees and other members of the public.

  • Compassion: Development directors are typically compassionate people who feel strongly about the causes for which they raise funds. Their natural passion helps inspire others to give and assist their organization’s fundraising efforts.

  • Organization: It takes strong organizational skills to plan and implement fundraising events, manage donations and maintain donor records.

  • Marketing skills: Development directors use their marketing skills to create fundraising campaigns and events that will inspire others to attend and give generously.

  • Computer literacy: Development directors use computers to manage their donor lists, fundraising schedules and grant applications. They may also need to be familiar with word processing software to write grant letters, fundraising reports and other relevant documents. 

Development director work environment

Development directors spend most of their time working in the offices of nonprofit organizations or other businesses with fundraising departments. They spend time away from the office when planning or hosting fundraising events and meeting existing and potential donors.

Development directors usually work traditional full-time business hours. They are also expected to attend fundraising events outside these hours. Additional work may be required leading up to these events.

How to become a development director

Development directors usually graduate from college and take an entry-level job in fundraising before being promoted to their leadership role. Many development directors follow the steps below to secure their preferred development director role:

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree: Most development directors earn a bachelor’s degree in business, communications, public administration or nonprofit administration. A bachelor’s degree in fundraising may also be advantageous. All these courses teach aspiring development directors about business practices, managing finances and managing an organization.

  2. Earn a master’s degree: While it is not required, many development directors pursue a master’s degree in fundraising. This course offers more specialized courses about strategic planning, developing fundraising campaigns and grant-making.

  3. Gain work experience in fundraising: Development directors usually first work as development associates. These entry-level positions help future development directors learn more about raising funds and working with others. Most professionals work in fundraising for at least four years before being promoted to the development director.

  4. Earn your CFRE certification: CFRE certification recognizes a professional’s fundraising experience and knowledge. While certification is voluntary, it can help development directors find a job more easily and earn a higher salary.

Development director job description example

Our nonprofit organization seeks a passionate development director to manage our fundraising initiatives and donor relations program. The successful candidate will be responsible for developing and implementing fundraising campaigns, communicating with existing and potential donors, and coordinating our fundraising team. This position involves managing individual and corporate donations. If you have at least eight years of experience working in fundraising and a bachelor’s degree or higher in a relevant field, we encourage you to apply.

Related careers

  • Chief financial officer: If the financial side of working as a development director appeals to you, you may enjoy working as a chief financial officer. This leadership role involves managing a business’s finances.

  • Brand ambassador: The strong interpersonal skills and understanding of marketing principles that development directors use can make them great brand ambassadors. Brand ambassadors promote the businesses and their products or services through social media platforms, blog posts and other marketing channels.

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