3 QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN HIRING A FUNDRAISER
Are you looking for a new fundraiser for your organization hoping to boost your funding? Do you envision someone who is passionate about your cause, has a successful track record, masters Theory of Change and also has a good friend in every foundation?
Well, you are not alone.
When browsing the non-profit job boards, it may actually seem that everyone is looking for one. While fundraising is sometimes hidden behind more sophisticated titles of Associates and Businesses Developers, in many cases it all comes to one thing — your organization’s need to find the person that will drive more funding.
Not all qualities are visible from a CV, and those hidden traits are the ones you need to find by asking the right questions.
It also makes sense, securing resources is crucial and the staff behind it will have a major effect on the stability of your organization. But how do you find and select the fundraising professional that is right for you?
We all know how the recruitment process goes. Usually, after reviewing the (hopefully big) stack of resumes, you can determine the years of experience, the donor knowledge, the average amounts secured and skills acquired by your shortlisted applicants. This gives you a good picture of their experience and expertise. However not all qualities are visible from a CV, and those hidden traits are the ones you need to find by asking the right questions.
What is your fundraising superpower?
Fundraising is not one task on repeat. It is a dynamic and continuous cycle of research, building and maintaining relationships, writing proposals and strategical planning. It is never only about one aspect or another, but rather a specific set of complementary skills that only together form the “perfect fundraiser” we all look for. But as it goes in the world, nobody is perfect. No one is the award-winning writer with genial analytical skills, top chess player’s strategical thinker and the funniest social butterfly at the same time. While some excel in writing winning proposals, others leave an unforgettable impression on a donor meeting. The good news is that you don’t need the “perfect fundraiser”. You need a fundraiser that fits the needs of your organization.
The good news is that you don’t need the “perfect fundraiser”. You need a fundraiser that fits the needs of your organization.
So, long before the interview starts, sit down with the team and set realistic expectations. Do you already have good relations with donors, but fail in writing a solid proposals? Or do you have analytical skills in the house but a team too shy to get out there and create valuable connections? Of course, it is all important, and you need someone with expertise in all of those aspects, but what aspect of a fundraising personality is really necessary? What “fundraising superpower” do you need the most?
Once you know it, ask the candidate what is their fundraising superpower. Where do they feel the strongest (and weakest) on that magical and complex cycle of fundraising? And just wait for that perfect match, instead of a perfect catch.
What is the story of your biggest fundraising failure?
Fundraising is not only winning. Everybody fails and when it comes to fundraising, hearing NO happens even to the best ones. What matters is how the person experiences it, what he/she learns from it and how does he/she maintain relationships even after a failure. How do they tell the story? Are they resentful and frustrated? How do they speak about the team and the donor now? And is it still a good story? This gives you an idea not only about what type of person is in front of you, but also about how they build and keep their valuable relations.
Everybody fails and when it comes to fundraising, hearing NO happens even to the best ones. What matters is how the person experiences it, what he/she learns from it and how does he/she maintain relationships even after a failure.
What would you do if…?
Let’s get real. Fundraisers often face unexpected situations and their reaction can make a world of a difference. Consortium partner backs out. Board member is not on board with fundraising strategy. You can’t put your foot in that one particular foundation where you know the long lasting partnership could start if you could only get in…
Let the candidates get into the real problems you are facing. Next to determining the right fit for your organization, you also get some more good ideas for the future!
Think of a situation that did not go well in your own organization, or a problem you are facing now. Provide the candidates with specific details, numbers, exact words and put them on the spot. What would they do and how would they solve the problem? Let them get into the real problems you are facing and next to determining the right candidate, you also get some more good ideas for the future!
Pay attention not only to how the candidate talks, but also to how they listen. Because when talking to the donor, it is often about listening to what the donor wants. So to be a good fundraiser, you need to be a good listener.
Finding the right fundraiser for your organization might be tricky, but with the right mindset, good questions and understanding your needs, you can find your “fundraising partner in crime” for many years to come. And if not, we are always there to help you.
With a background in Civil Society studies, Diana understands the role of social purpose organizations as well as their needs in today’s contexts.
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