What to Look for When Hiring a New Fundraising Staff Replacement
Have you ever had one of those weeks? Everything is lovely and you may get to play your first round of golf for the year soon. Your wife or husband is talking about vacation plans. Your niece just gave birth to her first beautiful healthy baby boy. Your daughter and son-in-law are building a new house. It looks like you may get a new consulting client. Your church names you as chair of the parish council. There are many things to be thankful for, and then your boss comes in the office. He closes the door and says he is being transferred.
That same afternoon your major-gifts director says she is leaving for a dream position. The skies open up, and your first golf game is cancelled. You must stop the presses and begin to look for a staff replacement. You know this process will be time-consuming and hard to find good replacements.
Wagner has been a valued colleague for many years. In addition to her day job, she has been associated with the Fund Raising School at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy for a number of years. She is so talented I remember the time she was supposed to speak at my board training session and placed her notes on the lectern. A previous speaker finished his presentation and ran to a cab for the airport.
He mistakenly took Wagner's lecture notes with him. She walked up to the podium and spoke without notes for two hours, smiling as she went with the flow. She has written many articles through the years. I continuously reference her book "Careers in Fundraising," published in 2001 by John Wiley & Sons. This book is timeless as a number of professionals contributed their wisdom to the book.
When you are looking for a staff replacement in the nonprofit fundraising profession, it is easy to immediately place an advertisement and hope for a quick match. That usually doesn't happen. Take the time to reflect on the position and person needed for the position as it is needed today, not several years ago when the departing staff member was hired. You now have a new opportunity to make changes based upon the current and future strategic direction of your fundraising program.
According to Wagner's book, the required skills and qualities needed for a development professional to be successful include:
- Verbal and written fluency and competence
- Attention to detail
- Ability to conceptualize
- Negotiating skills
- Ability to coordinate and manage
- Innovation, the ability to see something new, different and better
- Analytical skills
- Technical expertise (varies by position)
- Mentoring, supervising and teaching ability
- Understanding of budgeting
- Ability to plan
- Volunteer management
- Commitment to public service
- Comfort in dealing with people
- Tolerance for ambiguity
- Honesty and integrity
In my case and in many of yours, the staff replacement will have to manage several young staff members and be responsible for fundraising. This is not an easy assignment. You must look for someone who fits the culture, has chemistry with you and possesses intangibles for growth.
I am not a micromanager so I let my staff fly. At times, this can lead to mistakes, but I feel it is a very positive management tool. You also need to determine if the new staff member will blend in a positive way with existing staff. Timing is everything, and you hope that the timing for your new search is in sync with the perfect candidate's job hunt!
Finally, you should know exactly what you want in a new candidate to hit the ground running. Unfortunately, you may never afford the most experienced candidate with current financial resources available. Be creative in your hiring process. Think about hiring someone who can fit your financial criteria and possesses the ability to learn from others plus grow on the job over time.
As with every hire, the program will take a momentary step back. Your goal is to make the correct hire and quickly exceed the ground lost. Good luck, and happy hunting!
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.