Effective development officers are said to blend science with art. While it sounds nice and is easy to say, I have never really found the “science and art” phrase to be overly helpful in explaining our work. Here’s why: Being an scientist and an accomplished artist can occur from individual effort – I can hide myself away in my lab and have the Eureka! moment all by myself. I can’t work solo and be an effective development professional. I need others – most notable donors. Development work is a social enterprise not an individual one.
I think a more helpful description of our work is to talk about the blending of reason with relationship. In other words, when do our work well, we use sound judgment and good sense (as dictionary.com defines the word “reason.”), while also focused on the strengthening of relationships. To be an effective development officer, I do need to lean on my reason – and I can do this solo. But, importantly I also need to reach beyond myself. I need to become a master relationship builder. In fact, I need to focus on relationships more than lean on my reason.
A focus on relationships means that my disposition changes. Instead of facts, I focus more on meaning. Instead of logic, I focus more on understanding. Instead of persuasion, I focus more on empathy. Instead of honoring rules, I focus more on honoring others.
Yes, reason and relationships are both important to becoming more effective. But, becoming more knowledgeable, more logical, more scientific, more analytical – more reasonable – does not aid a development leader nearly as much as becoming a master of relationships.