If you need to hire a fundraising professional you are in good company. This is one of the hardest positions to fill. It is even harder to retain a talented fundraiser. We have written extensively on these topics over the years because they are a major issue confronting the nonprofit sector.
The number of experienced fund development and fundraising professionals is much smaller than the pool of organizations that need such people. The pool of talent gets even smaller when looking for people who have experience with a diversity of fundraising methods. It is most challenging when looking for an individual who can manage the fundraising function for your organization or institution. This is coupled by a structural challenge: good fundraisers are not necessarily good fundraising managers. Yet the pathway to professional success is often tied to a move from fundraising to management. This is not always a good idea as the strengths of fundraisers are not always the strengths of fundraising managers.
To help you make the right hire, we suggest asking some out of the box questions. Whether you need someone to manage your fundraising, or someone to raise money the questions you ask can influence your hire. Try some of the following:
- What is your history of volunteerism and community involvement? This lets you know a candidate’s appreciation for the nonprofit sector and her understanding of the challenges faced by organizations and volunteers.
- Mentorship and training – who has she been mentored by? Worked under? Which seasoned professional or volunteer has shaped her career? Formal training is hard to come by, but good habits are learned from respected professionals.
- Project development and management – what has your candidate created from scratch? What did she start and manage? Don’t worry about success: you want to learn about her initiative and how she approaches a goal.
- How well has she prepared for the interview? What types of questions does she ask in the interview? Do those questions reflect creative research of your organization? How a candidate prepares for an interview is a clue to how she may approach work with a donor.
- What is her work history and track record? Ask about growth with an organization or within a position; impact of her work; and length at previous positions – has she stayed long enough for organizations to benefit from her tenure? Was she a team player or a loner? Listen to language: do you hear “I raised $99 million in 90 days” or “Together our staff, board and volunteers exceeded our goal.” Does she mention working from a plan? Engaging and supporting volunteers?
Consider these suggestions as you prepare to make your next hire: out-of-the box questions can help you learn what you need to know.
1. How to Hire a Fundraiser http://fundraisinggoodtimes.com/2012/08/21/how-to-hire-a-fundraiser/
2. To Hire or To Plan – Which comes first? http://fundraisinggoodtimes.com/2011/04/08/hiring-fundraiser/
3. Fundraising Fables: Retaining fundraising professionals http://fundraisinggoodtimes.com/2014/07/21/fundraising-fables-retaining-fund-development-professionals/
4. Your fundraising quarterback: Staff http://fundraisinggoodtimes.com/2012/02/23/your-fundraising-quarterback-staff/
5. I’ll take a percentage http://fundraisinggoodtimes.com/2009/06/03/fundraising-ethics/
Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.