In 2022, we did a search for Howard University, a private historically black research institution in Washington DC. Howard is one of the highest producers of black professionals in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, religion, social work, and education. In our 20-plus years of business, we have placed over 1,000 candidates, and it is great to reconnect with them. Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down with Amber Haywood, who we placed as Director of Development for the Schools of Divinity, Education, and Social Work at Howard University. One year after being placed, we learned more about the role, what projects she has enjoyed working on, and advice for candidates looking for their next executive position in today’s job market, among other key topics.
DRiW: Talk about your role and what you’re responsible for.
AH: I serve as the Director of Development for the Schools of Divinity, Education, and Social Work, which means I serve as a frontline fundraiser for those schools and a strategic partner to the Deans of the respective schools. I’m responsible for stewarding and managing the individual giving portfolio and bolstering the institutional giving portfolio at the major gifts level.
DRiW: What attracted you to the position and the University?
AH: The position was uniquely aligned with my skill set and my background. I’ve spent most of my career in education, working on issues around educational equity. I’ve also straddled the development world, working for many social justice and racial equity causes at the grassroots level and in larger, more established nonprofit organizations. I also have a background as a community organizer and did a lot of work through my church around issues of homelessness, poverty, substance abuse, and a lot of issues that were plaguing low-income communities. The Director of Development for the Schools of Divinity, Education, and Social Work position was aligned with my interests. Howard also had a mission I wanted to contribute to.
DRiW: What initiatives or projects have you worked on this past year that you’ve enjoyed?
AH: One of my favorite things has been building the Case for Support for the schools. The largest school brought on a Director of Development; my schools were the smallest of three schools at the University. So, when I came on, there was a lot of foundational work to get them towards being a world-class development shop and to have all the resources and materials they needed to acquire funding. So, the Case for Support has been a really fun project. I took the history, the programs, and the mission, and then coupled that with the strategic plan and the vision of the schools I work with.
I’ve enjoyed building out the Case for Support through predominantly text and visual cues. I’ve also worked on the corresponding one-pagers, and it’s been nice to feel like I’m returning to my roots as a Head of Development, or back to when I was a Communications Director.
Also, testing out our new Case for Support with potential funders and seeing the impact that has had has been great. It has been resonating with partners who may not consider becoming donors to the Schools of Divinity, Education, and Social Work. That’s been a fun and fruitful project I’ve worked on.
DRiW: Can you describe your experience working with the DRiWaterstone team?
AH: It has been incredible. I have told everybody about it. Whenever a friend is looking for a job, especially in development, where at this level, the development process is long, I recommend reachingtout to the DRiWaterstone team. Even finding the role was because of the team. I applied for a different position and talked to the DRiWaterstone team. They said that position was too junior, and they had another role that they thought I would be uniquely aligned with and well positioned for. Such an intentionality was given to me as a candidate. They learned about who I was and matched me with an opportunity, and I don’t think I could have found a better fit for myself on my own. It was an incredibly supportive process, and working with the team was great.
DRiW: How was your experience with DRiWaterstone compared to other search firms you may have previously worked with?
AH: With other firms, it felt like they were working on behalf of the organization, and it was more of them scheduling and coordinating things for me – here is where you need to be and when you need to be there – and that was the extent of the relationship. Working with DRiWaterstone was different, and it was really surprising. It was more of looking for fits from both sides and connecting people to the causes that resonate with them and the job opportunities aligned with their unique skills, talents, and passions.
DRiW: What advice do you have for other nonprofit executive candidates in today’s job market?
AH: The advice would be to acknowledge, celebrate, and document your wins. It’s so important to have examples of the impact that you’ve had. Add them to your LinkedIn, but also have them in your documents on your computer, because when you enter the job market, and you’re trying to interview and tell those stories of impact, it’s amazing how much memory can fail us when we’re put on the spot and we’re looking for a role. Another thing I would say is to leave gracefully. Many candidates stay in positions where they’re feeling burnt out and don’t feel supported or appreciated. I think leaving gracefully when you realize that there’s no fit or a huge value misalignment is great because then you can leave on good terms. And these are people who would gladly give you references for other jobs.
At DRiWaterstone, we have the pleasure of working with some of the best clients and candidates in the nonprofit and social impact space. To learn more about how we can help you build high-performance teams and drive growth, email us – we’d love to talk!