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Nightmare Scenario

Impala University’s Chief Development Officer, Deirdre Cochran, is at the top of her game and has every right to feel proud of her professional accomplishments. Instead, she is having nightmares. After five years in the top fundraising job she has recently finished a successful capital campaign that far exceeded its goal. Staff morale is high; the trustees are thrilled.

But at the gala victory celebration Impala’s President James Peters, the man who hired Deirdre and has become her friend and mentor, announced his retirement. Now, despite her accomplishments, she is worried about her future at the University. Deirdre knows that presidential transitions frequently result in the replacement of the CDO – one estimate she’s heard is that it happens about 60 percent of the time. She has had colleagues at other institutions who were summarily replaced by new leaders despite being very good at their jobs.

Deirdre wants to stay at Impala. She believes that she has created a strong development and alumni relations team; the annual fundraising numbers show consistently impressive results. She has an extensive network of relationships with trustees and significant donors who like and respect her.

Deirdre’s concerns are justified, but she is not powerless.What might Deirdre do to improve her chances of retaining her job through the coming transition and developing a strong working relationship with the new president?

Torrey Helm counsels senior leaders about transition issues, including situations like this. There are no guarantees in life, but we can improve the odds of a positive outcome. Other members of our online community are free to chime in with comments, suggestions, and advice.