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Six Steps for Hiring—and Keeping—a Top-Notch Fundraiser

Six Steps for Hiring—and Keeping—a Top-Notch FundraiserSuccessful fundraisers are in high demand. And stories abound of fundraisers who look good on paper, interview well, and turn out to be flaming fiascos. How can you find, and retain, a fundraiser who will take your organization’s donated income to the next level?

  1. Interview thoroughly. Here are several ways you can go beyond the typical Q&A: Include board members in the interviews. Ask candidates to produce samples of their writing that are relevant to your mission. Conduct a mock donor visit. Show candidates a thorny scenario that you have run into and ask what they would do.
  2. Balance experience with passion for the mission. The ideal candidate has a personal connection with your mission AND demonstrated success in the fundraising field. Maybe that ideal candidate doesn’t exist. In that case, does it make more sense to hire an experienced fundraiser and give him or her a complete orientation to your mission? Or does it make more sense to hire someone steeped in the culture of the organization and provide training in the craft of development?
  3. Ask yourself if you like the candidate. If the person you propose to hire left a voicemail message for you, would you want to call back?
  4. Give the new hire ownership of fundraising projections. A trap that many organizations unwittingly lay in front of their fundraisers is to create goals based on needs as opposed to a realistic assessment of capacity. There is nothing wrong with setting ambitious targets. But unless they are based on past experience, they are hopes, not goals.
  5. Do “handshake” delegation instead of “run away” delegation. Successful fundraisers work as members of a team. They facilitate good donor cultivation, instead of doing it in isolation. If you give your fundraiser the message that you see his or her success ...
  6. Set clear metrics—for engagement, not just money. Here are some of the things that you can measure: number of cultivation events, number of board members who take an active role in fundraising, number of prospects you have spoken with in the past six months, length of time from arrival of a check to departure of a thank-you letter, number of different ways a donor gets thanked.

Six Steps for Hiring—and Keeping—a Top-Notch FundraiserThe preceding is a guest post by Paul Jolly, founder of Jump Start Growth, Inc., and, as of March 2016, major gifts officer for Earthworks. His clients include advocacy and religious organizations, social services, community arts, and education nonprofits.

Topics: Fundraising Nonprofit hiring