We were in the closing minutes of the interview. That's when the applicant, who, at this point was obviously interested in the Development Officer position on our team, leaned in slightly and asked the questions. With all seriousness: "So, tell me. In this job, would I be the official representative of the mission to meet that Fortune 500 CEO? Would I host the site visit? Would we get to know each other on a first-name basis?"
From the outside looking in, and especially to the uninformed and uninitiated, the work of a Development Officer must seem intriguing. After all, Development Officers are those folks on the staff who network and negotiate with corporate executives on a first-name basis. All, of course, for the good of the nonprofit they represent. Someone has to do this job, right?
This assumed prestige and privilege, along with the perks of meeting a Fortune 500 CEO, was probably behind the question posed by the applicant. At this point, I certainly didn't want to burst the bubble. And tell the applicant about the other side of being a Development Officer. Which, from the outside looking in, would seem to be as dreadful a job as you could possibly imagine.
After all, Development Officers are those folks on the staff whose success is measured by how much money they are able to raise from those corporate executives they will come to know on a first-name basis. Dreadful, of course, unless you are driven to do this out of utmost respect and regard for the mission you represent. And out of utmost respect and regard for each of those incredibly generous donors. Then, it is a delight to be a Development Officer.
I decided not to go down that road with the eager applicant.
"Would you be the official representative of the mission to meet that Fortune 500 CEO? Would you host the site visit? Would you get to know each other on a first-name basis? Those are great questions."
"Well, let's say the CEO will be driving down the street, heading to our nonprofit for the site visit. When she approaches the main entrance to the campus, she will see the manicured lawn, trimmed hedges, and freshly planted flowers around the flagpole. So the very first official representative she'll meet will be Pete. He is responsible for maintaining the grounds in pristine condition," and with that said, I began to weave the tale.
"Next, she'll park her car and walk to the front doors. The welcome mat straight and swept. The brass on the handles polished. The window panes in the entry gleaming and smudge free. That's the important work of Emma, the housekeeper for the administration building. Emma will be the second official representative the CEO meets." The applicant leaned back in the chair.
"The CEO will see a personalized Welcome Sign, prepared just for her and displayed prominently on the table in the center of the lobby. One of the most hospitable people you can imagine will notice her coming through the front doors, get up from the receptionist's desk, walk over and extend a warm greeting to the CEO. That will be Kelly. The third official representative the CEO meets."
My tale continued for a couple of minutes more. Giving me just enough time to sketch the profiles of a few other "official" representatives the CEO would be meeting on the site visit. Before she actually met the Development Officer.
Was the applicant grasping the concept? Development Officer as facilitator of rapport. Prompter of engagement. Conductor of interfacing. Promoter of the combined, collective efforts of the "many" making the consolidated impression.
Guaranteeing that the Fortune 500 CEO will have the opportunity to meet Pete, Emma and Kelly.
And making sure she will get to know each of them. On a first-name basis.