Making a Move? 8 Factors to Consider Before Changing Development Jobs

Image: phanlop88 at

Image: phanlop88 at

Last month, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Marcy Heim as part of her Major Gift Success Club program. Marcy’s questions focused mainly on how to build relationships with donors but one question took us in a different direction.

Marcy asked: You have shifted from several different development jobs during your career. Talk to us about the factors you considered as you made the shifts. What questions did you ask yourself as you transitioned? 

Because many of Marcy’s listeners indicated that our exchange on this topic was helpful, I am sharing it with you. If you’re considering a job change, read on for some factors (in no particular order) I’ve considered when switching jobs – they may be helpful for you as well! 

Job Responsibilities

My ideal new job is one in which I do work I’ve done before and some things I’ve never done before. It’s nice to have some part of a new job be familiar (in order to feel competent!) but it’s also important for me to always be learning something new and expanding my areas of expertise.

Your perfect balance of responsibilities might be different. For example, maybe you’d be happiest if your new job is very similar to jobs you’d had before. Alternately, it’s possible you’d like everything to be completely new. What’s important is to find the best mix for YOU!

The Mission

We hear all the time from development officers: It’s easy to raise money because I care so much about our mission. I agree. It would be tough to fundraise for a mission if I’m not passionate about it—or, if not passionate—at least something I can believe in it.


Having a good supervisor can make all of the difference. But “good supervisor” means different things to different people. I like to work with supervisors who are available when I need help and will mentor me in areas in which I’m inexperienced but, for the most part, allow me to choose how to prioritize and complete projects.

However, others may be most comfortable having a lot of direction. If this is you, you’ll want to look for a supervisor who’s more hands on.

Fellow Employees

In addition to your supervisor, you’ll be interacting with other staff in the organization. During the interview process, I try to get a sense of whether or not I think I’ll get along with these future fellow staffers. Do they seem nice? Welcoming? Considerate? Did they call me (you) back in a timely manner?

Organization Size

Do you like working in a small or large development department? The size of the development department generally correlates with the size of the organization overall. 

My preference is to work for smaller nonprofits because small shop positions usually include a wide range of responsibilities. For example, in my very first nonprofit sector job, I was one of just two development staff. Not only did I manage events, direct mail and individual solicitations, I was also responsible for the website, newsletter and media relations. This type of job is fun for me but it’s not to everyone’s liking.

Large shops offer positions with more focused job responsibilities and you’ll be part of a bigger team working towards shared goals. Also, larger organizations are likely more established and more stable financially, making your position more secure in the long run.

Workplace Culture

Do people seem happy working there? What is this nonprofit’s reputation around town in terms of a workplace? If you sense that you’ll be overworked and under appreciated, you may want to look elsewhere.

Is it established institution or more of a start-up? Start-up organizations have a lot going on, things move fast, and you’ll be creating systems as you go. This often-hectic pace and seat-of-your-pants culture can either be exciting or drive you crazy. Also, start-ups don’t come with a database full of loyal donors so expect to make a lot of calls as you build a list of prospects and donors.

On the flip side, an established institution will have its systems in place (including a healthy list of past and current donors). It might take longer to get things done and there may even be a degree of red tape. Some people like having a good deal of structure and rules to follow. It all depends on your personal comfort level.

Compensation Package

Let’s face it, it’s a job, so we want to be paid a fair wage or salary and receive some benefits such as paid time off, health insurance, etc. But money isn’t everything. You also might consider things like “how flexible is the office? Would it be ok to come in early and leave early? Could I work from home occasionally? Are there night and weekend events?”

Culture of Philanthropy

As a development professional, it’s important to understand if the staff and board are on board with fundraising. Does everyone in the organization value donors and their contribution to the work and mission? Is the board active in fundraising or do they expect the new development director to wave a magic wand to raise the necessary funds?

The bottom line is that there is a lot to consider when switching jobs. The beauty is, there are many nonprofits with great missions and variations of these different factors. You can likely find the perfect fit for you. All the best in your job search!

Special gift for you: Conquer Your Fear of Asking for Money, a step-by-step guide, is available here (click). 

What factors do you consider when switching development jobs? Please share in the Comments box below.