Think about this.
We have said, and I think you do agree, that this major gift thing is NOT about the money.
In fact, fundraising done well is never about the money. Good fundraising is about helping donors fulfill their interests and passions. I know we have mentioned this many times before.
But I bring it up again because we continue to see position titles used out in the marketplace that mention the money. Titles like these:
- Major Gift Officer
- Development Officer
- Advancement Officer
- Director of Major Gifts
- VP for Advancement
- Director of Individual Giving
- etc., etc.
All of these titles have two things in common:
- They are organization-centered – these titles tell outsiders what the person does INSIDE the organization – essentially, these people get the money and advance organizational stuff and get individuals to give. And…
- They are solely about the money.
It might be better to use “Director of I Am Going To Reach Into Your Purse.” (I joke.)
Those titles could be used internally because the folks inside need to know what you are doing to advance the organization’s purposes. But externally, use something like Donor Relations Manager or Director. Or Facilitator of Donor Passions and Interests. Or any other title that focuses on donors and their desire to work out their love of others and the planet through you.
You know what I mean.
If you are truly wanting to help your institutional or individual donor fulfill what THEY want to do through your organization, then your title should reflect that.
And it is OK to have two titles: one for use inside the organization and one for use outside the organization.
Remember, your donor mostly cares about what she can do through you, not what you can do with her money. ( Tweet it!)
Agreed, but I would love to hear your and our peers suggestions for more donor friendly titles.
Kathryn, me too. Struggling with this right now as we’re in the process of changing titles in the development department. Obviously we need something that connotes professionalism & doesn’t scare donors away. Director of Community Engagement? Director of ?
I like any all titles preceded by the words:
etc etc etc
We’re in the philanthropy buainess, plain and simple.
Profound Philanthropy LLC
We have two major gift officers in our office. Externally I have used Director of Donor Relations. My colleague would like to use Director of Leadership Gifts. I feel like Director of Leadership Gifts feels like a higher level role than Director of Donor Relations, which is, of course, the argument for using it. We are struggling with this decision.
Please see https://veritusgroup.com/the-critical-elements-of-a-mgo-job-description/ for more info….
I haven’t come up with an appropriate substitute yet for the business card title which currently reads Director of Institutional Advancement. Rarely does someone outright ask for my title but they’ll ask “what do you do?” or knowing I work at a school “what do you teach?” Been responding with “I teach philanthropy” for a number of years now — it’s a great conversation starter. Sharing the blog in case it’s useful: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/teaching-philanthropy-meredith-vanduyne/
Here’s research on the topic that suggests the best job titles for gift officers…
James, R. N. (2016), Testing the Effectiveness of Fundraiser Job Titles in Charitable Bequest and Complex Gift Planning. Nonprofit Management and Leadership, 27: 165-179. doi:10.1002/nml.21231
This study proves that ‘Director of Advancement’ is confusing and inefficient.
I agree totally with this article. There is way too much jargon in nonprofits and titles are just the tip of the iceberg. I remember seeing Director of Development for the first time and thought it had something to do with the construction industry. Recently, I was asked to evaluate eight applications for a very large grant. I eliminated two immediately because there was so much jargon that I didn’t know what they were saying. It was excruciating (and time-wasting) to read the applications and make sense of what they were trying to say.
I like the titles that Jim suggested, or something like Advisor, Philanthropic Gifts – all so much more encompassing and friendly. Also implies that you can go to that person and get advice on all questions about a gift; creates the beginning of a dialog.
I’m trying to dream up a title for a combined grant writing and Major Gift officer position that is being created. The boss is Chief Development Officer, but I’m looking for something that 1) is more descriptive and donor-oriented and 2) shows growth from my current Assistant Director of Development title for purposes of my resume history.
She has suggested Development Director, which meets #2 objective, but not #1.
I’ve come up with these:
Director of Major Gifts and Proposal Development
Philanthropy Officer for Major Gifts and Proposal Development (based on the comment above!)
Would love any other ideas!
We recommend removing money-focused words at least from your external title. You may have an internal (HR/Finance) title like Development Director and a more donor-centered one for your work with donors. Since you also have grant writing, you could do something like Donor Relations and Proposal Development Director. Congratulations on the new position!