Museums Hungry For Quality Chief Development Officers

Marian Alexander DeBerry, Director of Executive Search, Campbell & Company, quoted in recent MUSEUM article:

In the May-June edition of the American Associations of Museums' (AAM) MUSEUM, author Carl G. Hamm, Deputy Director, Development and External Affairs at Saint Louis Art Museum, and immediate past chair, AAM DAM, discusses the high turnover rate among museums' chief development officers and the lack of quality chief development officer candidates. 

According to a recent study conducted by a national consulting firm, the top development post at more than 25 percent of the art museums holding membership in the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) were either vacant or in the process of being hired. Additionally, the survey revealed that the average tenure of a chief development officer with an organization is 18 to 24 months. As a result, the development position in museums is becoming a "short-term enterprise rather than a strategic institution function".

Mr. Hamm sees various reasons causing this issue. Most important among them:
  • Projects for speedy fund generation as apposed to a long-term sustainable philanthropic-driven program development.
  • Unrealistic expectation of raising a big sum of funds in a short time frame.
  • Exclusion of accomplished mid-level professionals in grant writing, event management, gift officers, planned giving specialists, membership managers, and campaign managers from the organization’s overall budgeting discussions.
“One of the biggest trends we are seeing in hiring chief development officers these days it that the jobs have simply become too big,” says Marian Alexander DeBerry, Director of Executive Search at Campbell & Company. “Organizations are expecting the candidates with broad-based organizational skills, marketing knowledge and campaign experience, not to mention a complete understanding of both the philanthropic process and the ability to orchestrate programs to increase earned revenue.”

Possible solutions voiced among the leading industry minds include:
  • Differentiation between programs designed to generate fast cash and those philanthropic relationships that sustain organizations in the long term.
  • A better understanding of the role philanthropy plays in the life of the organization.
  • Willingness to generate earned revenues in a more innovative and entrepreneurial way.
  • Establishment of realistic expectations from the new chief development officer to produce successful programs.
  • Inclusion of mid-level talent into the discussions about the ongoing matters of the organization.
  • Encouragement of the continuous professional growth among aspiring professionals.
Also, Mr. Hamm warns against eroding from the philanthropic culture, which is essential to the museum field and encourages addressing the issue of qualified high level development professionals properly and promptly. 

For questions about how to retain your top talent, contact Marian Alexander DeBerry.

About Campbell & Company
Campbell & Company is a national consulting firm offering advancement planning, fundraising, marketing communications and executive search services to nonprofit organizations in nearly every sector. Through thirty-six years and more than a thousand engagements, we helped our clients anticipate and manage the challenges of the philanthropic marketplace. Our offices are located in Chicago, Boston, Portland, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area and Washington, DC. For more information, please call toll-free (877) 957-0000, email or

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Sarah Barnes

As an Online Fundraising Consultant, Sarah Barnes works with organizations to optimize their online presence through analyzing data that ultimately reveals strategies for the future. In her work with clients, Sarah most values opportunities to review and assess online data from multiple channels such as an organization’s website, social media channels and email marketing initiatives, to inform decisions, as well as working closely with organizations to brainstorm and identify and optimize strategic online fundraising initiatives.