Harvard Group International Recruits Chief Development Officer for After-School All-Stars

Founded by Arnold Schwarzenegger, this national provider of after-school programs has just recruited its first-ever chief development officer. Here's why every competitive non-profit organization now requires a top-drawer CDO.

April 13, 2017 – Executive search firm Harvard Group International has placed Mandy Nelson as the first ever chief development officer (CDO) of After-School All-Stars (ASAS). Managing director and non-profit practice leader Cyndi Court led the search.

Ms. Nelson is a seasoned non-profit development professional with more than 20 years of experience leading campaigns, programs, and people. She was a key participant in the rapid growth and evolution of five respected non-profit organizations.

“After-School All-Stars were looking for a seasoned development professional who had success with every revenue channel and experience leading large teams and delivering significant revenue growth,” said Ms. Court. “Mandy not only had the development experience but, more importantly, she was the right cultural fit. She has a passion for working with youth organizations and understands that smaller organizations require their leaders to be player/coaches,” she added.

“Mandy is very comfortable jumping in to help the team with any task required and is planning to serve as the staff primary for key donors,” Ms. Court said. “She is also comfortable and loves to build departments, which means stepping in where there is limited infrastructure.”


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Most recently, Ms. Nelson served for seven years as the associate vice president for development in the Pacific division of the American Red Cross, responsible for raising $70 million annually. Prior to that, she was at the Women’s Foundation of California and the Liberty Hill Foundation. Throughout her career, she has created and implemented fundraising programs, increasing annual support by as much as 30-fold. In addition to that, she is an experienced manager of development teams, including coaching 10 chief development officers at the Red Cross.

Founded in 1992 by Arnold Schwarzenegger, After-School All-Stars is a national provider of year-round, school-based, comprehensive after-school programs. The organization’s mission is to keep children safe and help them succeed in school and in life.

Harvard Group International is a performance-driven executive search firm that partners with clients to identify, evaluate and bring forward best-in-class individuals who directly and immediately contribute tangible improvements to their businesses. The firm is active in the sports, leisure and entertainment sector as well as in the non-profit space.


A Proliferation of Chiefs

While chief development officers have been around for a while, there has been a general proliferation of C-suite titles. Some recruiters say it’s a response to the lingering financial crisis from 2008. The days of easy money and ever-expanding GDP are gone, they surmise, making it cheaper and easier to grant an important-sounding title than it is to give someone a fatter pay package. But titles are important and in the case of chief development officers they often convey a certain seriousness and highlight the priorities of a business. Companies with a chief development officer onboard — sometimes called a chief  business development officer in the for-profit world, or chief advancement officer in a university setting — send a message of fundraising prowess, and that is vital when organizations like non-profits head to their donor base for cash infusions ….. Here’s some further reading from Hunt Scanlon Media.

New Officer Titles Continue to Flood the C-Suite
New C-suite titles have been cropping up at businesses everywhere. Executives climbing the corporate ladder are in hot pursuit of titles that include the words ‘chief’ and ‘officer.’ Among them: chief happiness officer, chief people officer, chief digital officer, chief knowledge officer, chief luminary officer, chief innovation officer, and chief observance officer.


Chief Development Officers In Big Demand 

Harvard Group has completed CDO searches for an expanding number of client organizations, including Susan G. Komen; I Have a Dream Foundation; Ashrae (Association of Engineers); Scholarship America; Pace Center for Girls; Make-A-Wish Chapters; and the Ronald McDonald House Charities.

According to recruiters, chief development officers are in high demand as fundraising prowess and having an ability to drive growth is becoming an essential part of the skills required of nearly every competitive organization today. A recent search on LinkedIn of the title generated more than 140,000 results.

No industry is immune to the need for top drawer chief development officers, and all CDOs are ultimately responsible for some heavy lifting when it comes to planning, coordinating and administering capital campaigns, corporate giving and galvanizing new donors while keeping old funders content. Implementing funding strategies that “keep the lights on” is, according to recruiters specializing in the function, job one.

“For national organizations that are complex and often decentralized, we focus on non-profits with similar structures,” said Ms. Court, who herself served as chief marketing and development officer for the Special Olympics prior to joining Harvard Group. “We find that leaders at this level who have experience working with chapters and developing and launching fundraising programs in collaboration with local affiliates are more likely to be successful. However, we always try to educate our clients that this leader cannot bring about change alone. It requires the CEO and a strong board to deliver the kind of results everyone is striving for.”

Recruiters generally say the best training for these positions is experience, noting that there are many industry conferences and summits that are extremely beneficial for benchmarking and sharing of best practices. And while the best fit for these executives ultimately depends on the culture of the organization, Ms. Court said “tenacity and drive” are two traits always required of a successful CDO.

“The CDO and CFO also have to work closely to ensure that accurate forecasting is done regularly so that adjustments can be made for the overall health of the organization,” Ms. Court noted. “The CFO is critical to ensure that budgets are aligned with fundraising goals and that everyone understands the type of revenue that is being raised (restricted or unrestricted and annual or multi-year pledges).” Working shoulder to shoulder, she said, often achieves the best results.

Contributed by Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media

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