Mr O’Brien said real estate investment trusts (Reits) and Irish real estate funds (Irefs), while currently a small part of the housing system, are “rapidly expanding”.

Fundraising (non-profit): What would your first steps be as a new Director of Development for an NGO?

I have no direct experience of this particular role (except as an observer), but my general approach to any such external-facing role is to start outside in. If this is the sort of NGO that gets money in a few big chunks (big donors, government/institutional grants), I’d line up meetings with all current donors, as well as people who said ‘No’ after some thought. For institutional proposal-driven grants, I’d try to get conversations with whoever said yes/no. In each case, I’d ask 3 basic open-ended questions and listen hard:

1. “What is/was your candid impression of this org?”
2. Why did you say yes/no for this specific campaign?
3.  Would you recommend this org/cause to others, and if so, who? If not, why not?

You need to be armed with this data to effect any changes. Even if a predecessor or report has gathered this data, it is important to hear it directly, and get some new insights. It also demonstrates the right priorities of a leader to staff. Starting inside-out, which is a natural instinct, screams “middle manager” to all.

Why? External data is the ONLY guaranteed way to persuade people to make any sort of change. Whether the internal culture is complacent, strong or toxic, only the voice of donors will move it the way you want. External data is the ammunition for all leadership.

If this is more of a grassroots thing that makes money online or in other small-amount ways, the tactics change, but the principle is the same: outside-in, armed with data.

Competitor data in a comparisons form can also be very useful ammo.

Besides this overarching design principle, the rest is mostly common sense: read the organization, hold 1:1 and group meetings with open-ended listening, credibility-building initial small moves (which also helps read the reaction instincts of key people), signalling your personality early on, judging culture and morale, identifying allies, adversaries and neutrals, engineering small wins to gain political capital for bigger moves, re-orgs in preparation for new strategies, mechanisms to help staff feel like they are helping shape strategy, etc. Not rocket science. Just common sense applied consistently and with conscientious attention to the right details. For all this, the fuel is the same: relevant external data.

This is not development strategy of course. These are the preparatory moves you need to lay the groundwork for “doing” strategy, which itself involves creativity, vision, buy-in and at least a little bit of alcohol.