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  • Barbara Maduell

Leveraging the Executive Director and Development Director Relationship During COVID-19



Last week, we checked in with more than twenty Executive Directors and Development Directors about fundraising strategies during the COVID-19 crisis. For each of their organizations – as is likely the case with yours – we discussed how to shift course, change course, or stay the course. What emerged from our conversations was the need to navigate the “ED/DD” relationship in new ways. Here are three simple tips for leveraging your work together right now:


Acknowledge what’s taking the majority of your time right now.

It’s hard for any of us to see beyond tomorrow. Executive Directors have been called into “big picture,” crisis leadership. Staffing, programming, technology, board communications, and overall budget impact – the urgency of these issues are unprecedented. Development Directors, in turn, face quick pivots from event-based to online fundraising, elevated contact with major donors, mobilization of volunteers, refocused staff efforts, and increased philanthropic goals to replace loss of earned revenue or program fees. Clarify your distinct and shared responsibilities to better understand each other’s bandwidth.


Prioritize those donors or funders with whom “only the ED” can update.

With time more limited than ever, make the shortest possible list of supporters who need to hear directly – and personally – from the ED. As a next step, identify who else on your staff or board could make the contact. Ideally, it’s someone with whom they have a relationship, but what matters most is that your stakeholders are receiving transparent, timely information and the opportunity to help your cause.


Convert your check-ins to "in-person," working sessions.

Effective ED/DD partnerships often take regularly-scheduled check-ins as an opportunity to touch base on a variety of issues, to connect about longer-term strategy, and honestly, to let off steam. With both roles stretched “beyond thin” today, tighten the agenda and use the time for both of you to call or email your ED’s short list of donors in real time. Yes, it’s logistically possible: if you’re videoconferencing, the ED can phone donors, and if you’re on the phone together, both the ED and DD can be emailing donors. Strategy can happen as you’re working “together,” and at the end of your meeting, you’ll have caught up on each other’s work and communicated with your supporters.


Consider these tips to be good habits for the future of every ED/DD partnership. For now, we hope they’ll help both Executive Directors and Development Directors to work as partners more effectively and efficiently.


Please share in the comments any new strategies or tactics you’ve adopted as a team, and we’ll share them through our network.


If you’d like help thinking through your fundraising challenges and opportunities right now, please reach out to us at info@breakthroughnw.com. There will be no charge for a one-hour conversation.


Thank you for the work you’re doing to make our community a safe and healthy place.

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