Wanted sign

Fundraiser Job Tips: How to Hire/Get Hired + Top Interview Questions

Wanted signIn my last article I talked about how to pitch yourself for a new job. My focus was on fundraising jobs, but it’s a paradigm you can use for any time you’re trying to make a persuasive case for yourself.

Today I’d like to get to the part where you’ve transitioned from “selling” to the interviewer, and have arrived at the part where they sell to you.  In other words, it’s your turn!

It’s important to prepare for this part of the interview. And, if you happen to be wearing the interviewer hat, you can use these tips to listen for important questions that will tell you a lot about your potential hire.

The Purpose of Question Time

Definitely come prepared with what you want (and need) to know to make a wise, informed decision.  You’ll want to ask about this organization’s history, its programs, its culture (don’t overlook this one!), this position, and the person(s) for whom – and with whom — you’ll be working. Think about what success would look like for you, and probe to assure the pre-conditions to achieve that success are in place.

The interview is as much an opportunity for the candidate to get to know the hirer as it is a chance for them to get to know you. There’s little point in selling yourself for a job you ultimately don’t want and won’t enjoy. Where you’ll just be spinning your wheels. Where you won’t have a chance to grow professionally. Life is too short.

POINT OF PERSPECTIVE: I’ve interviewed a lot of candidates in my day. And, truth be told, if they don’t avail themselves of this opportunity to ask questions I really wonder about them. How can they be so lacking in curiosity? Did they not prepare for this conversation? How are they going to learn things on the job so they don’t just do things the right way, but do the right things? If it’s a front-facing fundraiser position, how are they going to be when faced with the opportunity to build a relationship with a donor?

When I’m in hiring mode, I don’t need a broadcaster as much as a relationship builder. I don’t need someone who boasts ad nauseum about themselves as much as need someone who probes for my interests, needs and challenges. So, if you’re the hirer, listen to see how many of these questions your candidates ask; be prepared to answer these questions.

Top 20 Interview Questions

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Time for Change sign

Borrow From Old MacDonald’s Farm to Interview for a Fundraising Job

Time for Change signDid you have a New Year’s resolution to look for a new development position? Or maybe to transition to work in the social benefit sector?

Have you put your job search off, wondering how your skills translate to what you’d really like to do?

We all have an inner critic telling us super unhelpful things like:

  • You’re not ready yet.
  • You need another course or degree.
  • You need more years of experience doing x, y, and/or z.
  • You need time to prepare.
  • You aren’t good at this (math/negotiating/technical/financial/digital/sales) stuff.
  • You aren’t as confident as other people.
  • You can’t take this leap; it’s too risky.

These are all variations on the theme of “you don’t have what it takes.”

Nonsense!

This is a totally irrational fear. Your inner critic is perhaps trying to protect and defend you, but actually this critic is holding you back by ruminating on the risks and worst-case scenarios. If you always play it “safe,” you’ll never grow.

Today, I’d like to tell you what it actually takes to be an effective fundraiser.

I hope you’ll see these innate qualities and strengths are things you have already. All you need to do is formulate them into a pitch format you can use when you interview for a job.

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Photo of a cobweb

What Does Early Spring Mean for Nonprofit Communications Strategies?

Photo of a cobwebThis week the groundhog told us it’s going to be an early spring!

Spring is always a good time for re-awakening, rebirth and just plain dusting away the cobwebs.  And what a dreary, grave, cobwebby period it’s been.

We’ve got a lot to clean up, reorganize and rethink. So much, in fact, it’s downright overwhelming. So, as I sat down to write today’s article, I thought about what you actually have within your power to do. Right now. And all throughout the coming months.

I know it’s been pretty hard to focus with everything going on in the world.

So I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and tried to pull together the various challenges I’ve seen nonprofit leaders, fundraisers, and marketers grapple with in the past year. Actually, the past years. Through elections, pandemic, climate catastrophes, shootings, war, unprecedented demonstrations of cruelty and inhumanity, and more. It’s a LOT.

But, the show — your good work — must go on. 

In  other words, your mission must move forward. People rely on you to do the critical work of the social benefit sector.

I thought: what can people do now to set themselves up for success as we move forward into high fundraising season at the end of this coming year? It may seem early to think about this, but it’s never too soon to put your best foot forward.

I’ve ended up with four tips I hope you’ll find relevant and timely.

  1. Big Picture
  2. Your Role as Helper
  3. Practical Guidance
  4. Strategic Advice

4 Timely Nonprofit Fundraising and Communications Strategies

1. BIG PICTURE: Message Confidently During Uncertain Times

Whether it’s a marketing or fundraising communication, keep these four messaging basics in mind.

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Hound declaring indepence!

Declare Your Independence Day – Top 12 Strategies to Fight Overload

Hound declaring indepence!

Ready to declare your independence from the pandemic of overloaditis?

It’s a highly contagious epidemic, from which no one is immune.

Are you showing any symptoms?

Consider which of the following are true for you:

I feel like:

  • I’m working all the time, but not getting that much accomplished.
  • I’m working on 10 projects at once, but none get finished.
  • My ‘to-do’ list never gets completed.
  • I’m in meetings all day and don’t have time to work.
  • I bring my laptop to meetings and pretend to take notes while surfing the web.
  • I’m answering email all day and don’t have time to work.
  • I answer email during conference calls and in meetings.
  • I have less and less time to plan, not to mention free time.
  • I have less and less time to learn, not to mention creative time.
  • I can never get to things quickly enough.
  • I sit down at my computer and end up doing something different than I planned.
  • I am eating lunch at my desk, mired in my virtual inbox.
  • I make calls while driving, and even send the occasional text, even though I know I shouldn’t.
  • Vacation? What’s that?

Beware Overloaditis.

If you checked off three or more, you’ve got the disease. 8 or more, we need to rush you to an unplugged vacation. All of the above, you need a sabbatical!

But let’s look at what else you can do to give yourself some needed relief. Right now.

  1. First, don’t be ashamed of this disease. You’re not alone. One study puts the number of people reporting feeling burned out at their current job at 77%!
  2. Second, don’t let yourself become like the proverbial boiling frog. The reason I began this article with a list of overload symptoms is to help you become aware of the signs before, bit by bit, they gradually take over your life.
  3. Third, begin to address the symptoms.  Try to take a view from the balcony and see what your personal modus operandi looks like from up there. Productive? Effective? A good use of your time? If you were advising someone else behaving as you do, what counsel would you offer?

There’s a cure.

And what better time than Independence Day (if you’re in the U.S.A. — otherwise, any day is a good day) to set yourself free?

Seriously, don’t just read this list and toss it aside for later. If you’re overloaded, later seldom comes. Right?

Commit to doing just one of the 11 strategies below in the coming week . Personally, I suggest beginning with #1; most of us fool ourselves on this one. I also really like #2; see if you can do that over the next week or so. And #4 is a really good project to put on your calendar this week for some date in the coming month, making a commitment to decluttering.

Or pick your favorite!

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Top Secret to Completing Projects: Balance ‘Done Enough’ with ‘Overdone’

Box of fancy macaronsI’m a huge Seth Godin fan, always in awe of the plethora of wisdom he manages to pack into one pithy post. I save them up, building a collection I can draw upon for inspiration as life, personal and professional, pushes in.

Recently I looked back at What’s in the box? The point of the post is to make us question our quest for perfection and all the needless worrying we put into imagining everything that can possibly go wrong.  Godin encourages us to worry less; just open the box and see what’s in it. Good to consider. Yet this presumes there’s a filled box to be opened.

When we’re in reactive or firefighter mode, we must open the box. The contents must be dealt with, generally with some urgency. So, definitely, perfectionism gets in the way. There’s simply no time for it! But, what about when we’re in proactive mode, building our own projects?

A Greater Challenge Than Opening the Box

Filling and delivering it! This means coming up with useful, delightful, meaningful content your recipient will consider a true gift.  Once you’ve got a nicely filled box — a good gift — it’s time to deliver so the donor’s “feel good” can begin. Alas, this is where the concept of “done enough” vs. “overdone” can rear its ugly head.

Imagine This: You plan to send some cookies to your college sophomore.  You make a batch of gorgeous macarons. Then you worry they’re too fancy. The next day, before putting them in a shipping box, you decide to add some chocolate chip since they’re ‘safe’. The next day you decide, as long as you’re bothering to ship these, you’ll add some brownies and oatmeal because then there’s some to share with roommates. The next day you realize it’s almost Valentine’s Day, so they’ll probably expect some heart-shaped sugar cookies.  Now you’re getting into the “project-ness” of this endeavor, and decide you’ll make a few more kinds so it’ll be a really spectacular presentation! Great fun, yes… but, what has happened to the macarons by the end of the week?

The Old Stuff Gets Stale 

While it’s true sometimes things are not ready for prime time, the reverse is also true. 

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Sombody Else's Problem

Are You Working on Somebody Else’s Problem?

Sombody Else's ProblemYou are if your modus operandi is fire fighter.

Because, let’s be real, you’re mostly putting out fires set by other people.

It may make you feel like a hero, but it’s not the best way to approach your job on a daily basis. Let me explain by asking you to answer these questions:

  • Do you find yourself spending most of your time responding to other people’s crises?
  • Is your day consumed with disruptive activities?
  • Do you answer email all day long?
  • Do you immediately respond to texts and voicemail?
  • Are you constantly reacting, with little time left for acting?

If so, you (and most likely your co-workers too) are probably not doing the important preventive work that must be done so these urgent fires don’t break out.

Prevent vs. Fight

Anyone can fight a fire;Only YOU can prevent [forest] fires.”

So, get out of the trees for a minute, take a perch at the top of a hill, and get a panoramic birds-eye view of your organization’s forest. Look for the places where danger lurks and fires might break out. For example (this is a non-exclusive list), it could be the way:

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Three San Francisco Hearts: Butterfly Heart. SF Love. I LUV SF.

Surprisingly Simple Strategy to Magically Transform How You Work

Three San Francisco Hearts: Butterfly Heart. SF Love. I LUV SF.The single most important lesson I ever learned.

Begin with the why.

Always.

If you don’t, you’re likely to work very hard and not achieve much of value.

Why?

Because you didn’t begin your endeavor by asking yourself:

“What’s the value in this work upon which I’m about to embark?” 

“Why am I doing this?”

This may be the most powerful strategy in your entire toolbox.

So simple. So basic. So fundamental.

Yet it’s a step we tend to overlook.

Why?

The often-overlooked steps.

Humans are funny creatures.

Monkey see, monkey do.

Monkey be told what to do, monkey do.

We’re driven instinctually, by biology, to survive.

Don’t eat the berries no one else is eating. We take what appears to be the safest course.

It generally works in the short term. There must be a reason.

Sometimes, however, there is no reason.

There’s just habit.

Or the reason isn’t a good one.

Answering the why question requires two elements: knowing what and who something is for. Let’s begin with the what.

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