Hiring an Interim DD: When, Why, How and Who

By: Cheryl Clarke


            You’re an Executive Director whose Development Director will be going out on maternity leave.  Or she’s accepted another job and her last day is in two weeks.  Or you’ve had to terminate the person currently in the position.  What do you do? 


            In situations like these, when the crucial Development Director’s position becomes open due to a planned or unplanned event, more and more Executive Directors are hiring an Interim Development Director. Here are the five reasons why

            1. Funding activity does not stop while the position is unfilled.  Appeal letters need to be written, grants need to be submitted, galas need to be planned.  In a small development department, it is likely staff does not have the bandwidth or expertise to pick up the slack. 

            2.  Staff requires managerial leadership.  Times of transition are often stressful for staff, especially new and/or younger employees.  A development team will benefit by having a seasoned development professional at the helm to provide steady and sound guidance during an otherwise uncertain time.

            3.  Peace of mind.  From program oversight to ensuring financial stability, if you’re an Executive Director, you juggle a lot of balls.  With an Interim Development Director on your board, you can be assured that critical fundraising activities will fulfilled and deadlines met

            4.  New eyes provide fresh insights.  As a newcomer to your organization, an Interim Development Director can offer you a fresh perspective.  Perhaps you’ve wondered about the effectiveness of your current fundraising strategies or if your agency has the right staffing in place?  If so, an Interim Development Director can provide you with valuable insights either informally or through a more formal assessment process. 

            5.  It takes time to hire the right person.  If the Development Director position needs to be filled, you can expect it will take longer than you think.  With an Interim Development Director on board, you won’t be tempted to rush the process and hire a less-than-qualified candidate.  You can take the time necessary to recruit a stellar professional for your agency!

How?  Who?

           How do you find someone to step into the role of Interim Development Director?  And who should you hire?

           First, assess your priorities during the interim period so you’ll be able to recruit someone who best fits those needs.  For example, if you have a young and largely inexperienced development staff, you probably want to hire someone with prior managerial skills who can provide coaching and professional development.

           Second, ask your network.  Chances are you’ll be able to compile a list of referrals in short order.

           Third, interview those candidates whose experience matches your needs.  If appropriate, engage your development staff in the process. 

           Fourth, be realistic.  People who accept assignments as Interim Development Directors tend to be senior development professionals working as consultants who have added interim engagements as a component of their practices.  The majority will be willing to commit only a portion of their available hours to an interim engagement, often up to 50%.  That means, you need to be realistic about your priorities and what can be expected from someone in a limited period of time.  Also, be realistic about costs.  Expect to pay a premium.  Keep in mind, your Interim Development Director is not receiving benefits (including health insurance, paid holidays and vacations), is available on short notice and brings a wealth of experience.

            At some point in your career as an Executive Director, you’re likely to have the position of Development Director come open, however there’s no reason to panic.  Hiring an Interim Development Director can be the solution Executive Directors, like you, need!