It's Not Just About the Fund-raising: The Dilemmas of a Development Officer

There was a time, we suppose, when telling someone you were a development officer for any organization would have elicited this knowing response, "oh yes, fund-raising." Or when having this position may well have required a spirited defense, including taking out a full page ad in the New York Times to respond to any and all critics: "Why I Am Proud to Be A Development Officer."

No more. There is something to be said for professionalization and for taking seriously the ethical development and dilemmas of Development officers, as our discussion with Melissa Combs brings to light. Melissa is the Director of Development at The Ecology Center Ann Arbor, and has been in the field working for fairness and sustainability for social justice and environmental causes for 11 years. Our conversation ranged from philosophical issues--the worry over shifting to the private sector public services that siphon off funding--to the day-to-day issues of applying even-handed gift policies, such as dealing with donors whose identity embarrasses or upsets some members of the organization.

This conversation is not just insider talk. There are many more questions  we would like Melissa to consider in a follow-up discussion. One of particular bother is this: suppose we recently learn that one of our classmates has been urging us to give money to our school, on the strength that he is giving at a certain amount. BUT we find out inadvertently, and not quite fairly, that he is NOT giving the amount he claims to the school. In fact, he is not even fulfilling his pledge. Should we consider taking out a full page ad in the New York Times entitled, "Why We Feel Betrayed," which sums up our initial reaction to this deception?  Development professionalism is not just about the fund-raising after all.