In Part 1 of this article I outlined the performance habits (practice) and innate qualities (psychology) to look for in a candidate for a chief fundraising job. I encouraged you to ask candidates questions that probe for these behaviors and qualities.
Equally important to the questions you ask the candidate are the questions s/he asks you.
Listen for Questions
The interview is as much an opportunity for the candidate to get to know you as for you to get to know them. If they don’t avail themselves of this opportunity, how are they going to be when faced with the opportunity to build a relationship with a donor?
Think long and hard about this one.
You don’t need a broadcaster as much as you need a relationship builder. You don’t need someone who boasts ad nausea about themselves as much as you need someone who probes for your interests, needs and challenges.
Whenever I’ve interviewed for a job, I’ve let my potential employers know that the #1 thing I’m looking for is an opportunity to be successful. Yup. Not “nice colleagues.” Not “getting to meet new people.” Not “having a chance to grow professionally” and “move up the ladder.” These are responses other candidates have given me.
Personally, I have no desire to go somewhere I’ll just be spinning my wheels. And unless I fully understand what success will look like to you – and whether you have the pre-conditions to success in place — I can’t help you get there. To make sure I avoid any hidden traps, I make sure to ask the following questions (listen to see how many of these questions your candidates ask; be prepared to answer these questions):
- How large is your budget, and what percentage must come from contributions?
- How do contributions break down by campaign (e.g., individuals; foundations; businesses; events, planned giving, etc.)?
- How many donors do you have?
- What do you consider a “major gift” and how many are you getting?
- How large is your board and how much is your board donating?
- How are board members involved in fundraising?
- What do you use for a donor database? CRM? Who knows how to use these?
- Do you have a strategic development (fundraising and marketing) plan?
- How are fundraising and marketing integrated (formally and infornally).
- What is your marketing budget to acquire new donors?
- What is your stewardship budget to renew and upgrade ongoing donors?
- What percentage of the E.D.’s time is spent on fundraising? Ideally, would this become more or less?
- What kind of staff support is available to this position? To the E.D.? To the board and other volunteers?
- What are your top challenges? (Ideally, once you let folks know what keeps you up at night, good candidates will offer a glimpse as to how they might address the challenges you’ve highlighted).
- What is your strategic planning process? How is development involved?
- What is your board calendar and how often is development on the agenda? Would I attend meetings?
- What would be the goal for my first year?
- Do you believe any of your top income sources are threatened in the next few years?
Don’t just listen for what you want to hear.
Thoughts for employers: Don’t just listen for what you want to hear. Just because the candidate seems like a nice person is not reason enough to hire them for a job that requires broader, more strategic skills. It’s easier to spend a few more months now without a hire than to invest a year in someone; then be right back where you started a year from now. The right people are out there! Keep looking. And be prepared to spend money to make money. If you want double- or triple-digit growth, budget for additional staff, expenses for travel, database improvements, training, etc., and make sure your leadership are committed to the process.
Thoughts for applicants: Resist the temptation to sell, sell, sell. You’re a buyer too. If you’re good, they’ll be lucky to get you. So ask questions that reveal more about the merchandise. Don’t just listen for what you want to hear. If the E.D. spends “a lot” of time fundraising, find out what this means. If the board is “very committed” don’t assume this extends to their role as fundraisers. Probe more. Find out. Don’t blow your opportunity to find out what’s lurking in the closet or swept under the rug.
One general note of caution for all: You don’t want to act out of desperation. If you do that now, you’re most likely just kicking the can down the road. Trying to make a chicken out of a fish never works. It’s worth it to spend a bit more time now doing your due diligence to find that match made in heaven. Otherwise, you know where you’ll wind up instead. Don’t go there!
TO PUT IN PLACE PRE-CONDITIONS FOR FUNDRAISING SUCCESS…
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