Forget The Title!

King 1

By Phil Gerard

Are you obsessed with titles? I used to be. I once almost turned down a job offer because the title was not senior enough in my opinion. Thankfully, my supervisor at the time talked sense into me.

We have a title mess in our profession. Titles vary from organization to organization. A Development Officer at one shop may be called a Manager or Associate Director at another. It is very difficult for an outsider (including donors) to understand what someone actually does by looking at the title.

Why is there such inconsistency in job titles? And should you worry about the title when considering your next opportunity?


Some development offices start out small but grow exponentially. This happens often in universities. The shop might start out as a centralized development office but soon grows to a centralized/de-centralized system as fundraising teams are deployed in the faculties and schools. In the beginning there may have been only one person per unit but now additional positions are being added. In such cases it can be challenging to determine the right titles and sometimes titles get inflated or creative at the least.


In our profession percentage compensation is considered unethical. However, high performers need to be compensated competitively to recognize their achievements and to retain them. One way of doing that is by promoting the person to a more senior role with a title that reflects it.

Recruitment and Retention 

In some cases titles change for recruitment and retention reasons. I have seen organizations change the Major Gifts Officer title to Associate Director of Development, Manager of Philanthropy or other more senior-sounding titles. Partly to attract candidates partly to retain existing staff.

So What?

What does this mean for you and your résumé? We all know that  demonstrating progressive experience on a résumé is important. Shouldn’t such senior experience be reflected in the title too?

In theory and in a perfect world – yes. But the reality looks different sometimes. You cannot always fret about a title when you are making a career decision. You might be getting the chance of a lifetime in a particular career opportunity: responsibilities you never had before, projects that are more complex, higher level donors, in a larger and more professional environment than you are in now.

If the only thing that gives you pause is the title – forget it! Shake the false pride off.  What is more important than the title are the responsibilities you are actually going to have and the reputation of the organization. Having worked for certain organizations will open doors for you.

Rather than focusing on the title, job seekers as well as hiring managers and recruiters should focus on responsibilities, targets achievements, and overall scope of the role. This will help job seekers decide if a job is the right next step and it will help recruiters assess whether someone has the requirements for the vacancy.

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