What Is a Chief Development Officer?

A Chief Development Officer will plan, coordinate and assure the implementation of strategies to develop donors, funding and contributions to support the organization. They maintain appropriate systems to fund development activities and maintain accountability procedures and compliance standards for funding sources.

Job Duties

Chief Development Officers develop and implement monthly and annual fund development plans that align with the overall strategic plan for organizational revenue growth. They work with corporate executives to generate new corporate sponsors. They execute corporate sponsorship strategies during special events and activities that generate revenue, enhance brand image and increase positive publicity. They provide input regarding policy and procedure decisions of the senior management team.


Chief Development Officers closely work with their organization’s fund development board or committee to carry out fundraising goals. They search and secure public opportunities for the organization’s leaders to speak at public events involving high profile members of the community and business world. They strive to increase and influence public opinion and attitudes through strategic public education plans that identify specific activities for informing certain organizations, groups and the media.

Expected Experience

Corporations will expect Chief Development Officers to have comprehensive management and administration skills. This includes experience with business planning, evaluation, directing and coaching. They need excellent oral and written communication skills as well as marketing and financial management knowledge. They must understand organizational behavior, governance and development. Employers will expect demonstrated experience in managing and implementing corporate fund and charitable contribution development programs.

Chief Development Officers should understand the ethics, nature and dimensions of philanthropy activities. This means that they must understand the various motivations for giving and volunteering. They should know donor cultivation practices, standard fundraising techniques and proposal material writing. Their administration skills should include gift processing, prospect analysis, donor histories and fundraising reporting. They must be confident and professional when asking people to contribute time and money.

Standard Education

Most Chief Development Officers will have a master’s degree in business management or nonprofit administration. A master of nonprofit administration program is the standard because students acquire the tools needed to strengthen their leadership abilities, handle ethical considerations and effect positive organizational change. These programs help students to develop essential leadership values, management skills and business competencies to work as executive-level employees of nonprofit organizations. Students are taught about public advocacy, social change, economic inclusion, human services and sustainable development.

Students may take classes in ethical leadership, which examines value-based decision making from the nonprofit sector perspective. Students will learn contemporary practices of globally successful nonprofits, civic movements, voluntary associations and social philanthropic institutions. Classes in fundraising and philanthropy study the practices and principles of fundraising, donor solicitation and grant writing. Students will learn diversified and sustainable practices for organizational resource development.

As an alternative, some Chief Development Officers have a master’s degree in managerial accounting or financial management. Some Chief Development Officers earn an MBA in either nonprofit finance or management.