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Alternate Career Titles:

 Fundraising Director

Career Overview: Coordinates annual activities and campaigns, and establishes relationships with donors.

Career Salary Range: $25,000 to $90,000+

Director of Development

Become a Director of Development

Career Description

The Director of Development has the tough task of motivating people to donate money to the orchestra. They can do this in a number of ways including coordinating annual giving activities and capital campaigns for donors and potential donors. In this role, the Director of Development will develop special events and programs to financially support the orchestra. Such events include direct mail campaigns, telephone and telethon fundraisers, balls, dinners, or cocktail parties.

Heavy research in the form of questionnaires and surveys is also involved so the Director of Development can reach those who are interested in fund-raisers. To have the best opportunity to raise funds, the Director of Development should have strong public contacts. On a daily basis, the Director works closely with the Director of Public Relations and the Orchestra’s Manager. In terms of who works for whom, the Director of Development usually reports to either the Assistant Manager or the Managing Director, while also sometimes being responsible to the Board of Directors. Acting as a liaison, the Director of Development connects donors to orchestra management, making sure to inform management of anything that might be impacting donations.

It is also common for the Director of Development to work with volunteers, attempting to involve them in fund raising activities like auctions, dinners, dances and other benefits held by the orchestra. Also, word of mouth isn’t enough, as the Director of Development creates printed fundraising literature including brochures, pamphlets, and programs. Audio visual formats are also created by the Director of Development, as they attempt to spread the word through slide shows, commercials, films (get your film & television contacts list here) and other forms of multimedia.

Aside from donations, a large amount of money is raised through grants, foundations, and endowments for the arts. Thus, the Director of Development must remain knowledgeable on such opportunities. He or she should know how to apply for grants and write proposals, and must know how to follow up. In terms of other skills, he or she must be enthusiastic for the orchestra’s cause.

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The orchestra’s size and fund-raising goals usually dictate how much the Director of Development is paid. Those working for smaller orchestras will usually start out earning $25,000 per year, while Directors of larger orchestras will have greater responsibilities and will probably earn up to $90,000 or more.


Due to high turnover in the field, Directors of Development who produce results are usually in demand. With that said, there is turnover due to failure by many to satisfy the financial goals of the Board of Directors. Most boards want higher financial results in less time.


Because it is difficult to get results, those who can will move ahead to a development position with a more prestigious orchestra. Also, he or she may also try to advance by moving into an Orchestra Manager position.

Education and Training

Directors of Development are not always required to hold college degrees or have graduated from a music school (see our music schools resources here), but they are often preferred. Degrees in arts administration or management are usually the most useful, and plenty of colleges offer such programs. Courses that help include marketing, public relations, and business.

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Experience, Skills, and Personality

Many get their start in fundraising by acting as a club or organization chairperson. These individuals are enthusiastic about fundraising and look for careers that involve fundraising. Directors of Development need to be persuasive, but not offensive or overly aggressive. They know the methods to bring in potential donations, and they know how to motivate others to volunteer.

Unions and Associations

The American Symphony Orchestra League (ASOL) is the union most Directors would belong to. In addition, there are local arts councils.

Suggestions for Getting Started

  • Orchestral management internships are made available through orchestras, colleges, and other organizations.
  • Seminars offered in both the development and fundraising field are usually sponsored by major orchestras and colleges – these are very useful.
  • The American Symphony Orchestra League (ASOL) newsletter lists any vacancies. Many regional arts organization publications also list any available positions.
  • Contact a number of orchestras and ask to submit an application to work as a trainee.

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