Tips for chief development officers

Serving as a chief development officer (CDO) of a nonprofit can be a good springboard to moving up the ladder, but going from one position to a higher one overnight is risky.

During the recent Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) International Conference on Fundraising, Thomas W. Mesaros, president and CEO of the Alford Group, and Sharon Moulds, executive director and CEO of the Chief Seattle Council of the Boy Scouts of America, pointed out that being successful as chief executive officer (CEO) requires preparation long before moving to the big office, as well as doing the job once in office.

They said that those who would climb the career ladder should be aware of the following:

  • Gaining experience: Do well where you are. Exceed expectations. Build a quality volunteer cadre. Look for a quality CEO from whom to learn. Read. Attend workshops.
  • Connect with the community: Serve other organizations as volunteer or board member. Converse with the current CEO. Learn to listen and observe.
  • Identifying a mentor: Create a formal relationship with another CEO. Meet regularly over a specified time frame. Set specific learning or discussion topics.
  • Making the move: Build a network throughout the nonprofit world. Be prepared to not get the first position you apply for, and only apply for positions you truly want. Discuss interview techniques with the mentor.