Transcending the Status of Development Officer to Philanthropic Advisor

8 10 2013

Every so often, development officers transcend their title and move into a special status with select donors and prospects – philanthropic advisor. This is not a title that someone puts on their business card or a simple marketing gimmick, it is the result of a high level of professionalism, commitment to philanthropy, and respect for the people with whom you are honored to counsel as they make meaningful gifts to benefit their schools, hospitals, and other non-profit organizations.

Go from "development officer" to "philanthropic advisor".

Go from “development officer” to “philanthropic advisor”.

Striving to reach this important relationship does not mean abandoning important metrics like number of donor visits, dollars raised, proposals, etc.  Nor does it mean that you buy into some unique selling system that runs contrary to good development.  While there are many similarities between sales and development work, we are not selling gift annuities, hospital rooms, laboratory space, or scholarships. Not every gift fits every donor – our task is to help each donor impact the world through philanthropy in a way that is impactful to the organization and fulfilling to the donor.

You will know you have reached the status of philanthropic advisor with a donor when they pull back the veil on themselves and their giving.  While each donor grants this differently, it usually occurs when these donors engage you in open conversation about their finances, their family, and most importantly their hopes and dreams. Furthermore, you will often find yourself at the table with their other trusted advisors: family members, lawyers, and financial planners.

While there is no magic formula, those development professionals who achieve this status with donors consistently possess the following attributes in themselves and their relationships with donors:

  •  Professionalism – Represent yourself and your organization to the highest standard – all the time.
  • Genuineness — Your interest in the donor or prospect should be real and be committed to helping them make the best possible gift they can.
  • Transparency – Always retain the right level of transparency with your donors and prospects about who you work for and what your ultimate goal is in that relationship.

It is an intense honor for donors to grant you this status. I challenge you to earn it.

Good Luck!

Mark J. Marshall




One response

8 10 2013
Dennis Kelly

Aspiring to the status of philanthropic advisor calls for a way of practicing that honors our donors, serves our organizations and brings credit to our profession. Thanks, Mark!

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