Ep 163: What It Takes to Be a Successful Director of Development (with Lori Abrams)

by Joan Garry

Join me for an eye-opening conversation about fundraising mistakes, fundraising anxiety, and what it actually takes to be a first-rate development director for your nonprofit.


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Every single nonprofit Director of Development out there knows the joy of raising money for a cause that is near and dear to your heart. But, it’s also no secret that asking for money can be an extremely emotional — and sometimes even terrifying — thing to do. If you can relate, then you will definitely want to hear what Lori Abrams, the Director of Development for The Valerie Fund, has to say about the key to transformational philanthropy and success as a Development Director.

When it comes down to it, one of the main reasons why fundraising can seem terrifying is the fear of making a mistake. I still cringe when I think back to the time when I once made a big fat fundraising mistake… I told someone that he should be a donor to our organization. Can you believe that?

The reality is that there will always be hits and misses in the fundraising arena. According to Lori Abrams, many of these types of “misses” can be avoided if you understand the fundamental difference between the transaction of taking and the relationship building that earns the trust of your desired donors.

In this episode, she breaks down the two main categories of fundraising mistakes that can thwart your efforts — sloppy mistakes and strategy mistakes. Tune in to learn how to identify and avoid them so you can hit more home runs as a fundraiser and Development Director.

Click play to learn:

  • Why do so many nonprofit Development Directors use the word terrifying to describe fundraising? (13:05)
  • What does it take to be a first-rate Development Director? (14:23)
  • Why is attention to detail so important for a nonprofit Director of Development? (16:05)
  • What are some of the most common fundraising mistakes Directors of Development make? (21:22)
  • Why is using intuition so crucial for Development Directors? (29:11)
  • How can Development Directors go from experiencing the ‘oys’ of fundraising to experiencing the ‘joys’ of fundraising? (42:23)


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About Lori Abrams

Since 2006, Lori Abrams has served as Director of Development for The Valerie Fund, which provides support for the psychosocial care of children with cancer and blood disorders at seven dedicated outpatient centers in five hospital systems. Prior to The Valerie Fund, she held the positions of Associate Campaign Director for the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County and then Director of the Mandel Center for Excellence in Leadership there, a center for professional and volunteer leadership development. Lori began her nonprofit career at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in 1986. She credits her understanding of gift cultivation and life in general to time spent on a kibbutz milking cows where her dairy manager taught, “You don’t want to take the milk from the cow; you want her to give it to you.”

Contact Lori Abrams