Just Say No: 7 Development Professionals You Don’t Want to Be

Christine Mayer \
August 31, 2017

What are the skills and personal qualities that characterize the successful development professional you want to be? Let’s start by describing the development professionals you don’t want to be:

The Woolly Mammoth: Times and needs change. Don’t rely on a historic funding relationship. Evolve and revisit your relevance continuously as a practice.


The Name Dropper: Use good judgement in relying on relational capital. Don’t try to corner a donor, funder or sponsor; it rarely ends well!

The Snake-oil Salesman: Be authentic. Don’t offer 15 different “products” in hopes that one will catch the funder’s eye. You will be more successful as a fundraiser if you come from a place of your core mission.


The Unicorn: Don’t lead by claiming your organization is uniquely positioned as the only one in the universe that could possibly do this work.  High marks for those who find real, tangible ways to collaborate by sharing people, clients or referrals in the best interests of the clients served.

The Over-stater: Do unto partners as you would have them do unto you! Never exaggerate your collaborations and partnerships.

The Bestie: Yes, you are in a profession that relies on personal connections and relationships. And yes, you are still a professional! Save the bestie routine for social hour.

The Master of Surprise: However bad the news is, I promise you that delaying the “reveal” will make it worse. Commit yourself to transparency.


Flip this list upside-down and you will see that the best development professionals are:

  • Transparent
  • Direct
  • Open
  • Great Communicators
  • Able to speak to brains and hearts
  • Authentic
  • Straight shooters
  • Focused on the work (at least as much as they are focused on the relationships)