Looking for Your Next Fundraising Professional?
What a time of chaos in the fundraising profession. I have seen several fundraising professionals leave the profession to secure for profit positions, only to quickly lose these positions due to the economy downturn. I have also seen many organizations reduce fundraising positions or consolidate positions as a response to sudden budget adjustments.
Professionals have contacted me privately for advice, counsel and guidance. Many are fearful of losing their jobs and want to know how they can better prepare for weathering storms now and in the future. No one expected COVID-19 and the aftershock it has brought to our profession. If management must make hiring or firing decisions, the one certain decision is to retain fundraising professionals who are the most successful in their jobs. If you want to retain your job or seek a different position, what are the elements that others determine needed for success that can make or break your employability?
The late Jerold Pana noted in his book, “The Fundraiser’s Measuring Stick,” that there are numerous attributes that make a great fundraiser great, but five stand out. These attributes are having a gift for selling the dream of the organizational mission, outsized optimism when seeking charitable gifts, a flair for team as opposed to individual leadership, the courage to ignore convention and create change for donors to want to see things happen, and energy shown by professionals to volunteers and donors.
Donorbox noted that the most successful candidate will demonstrate a range of qualities and personality traits that will help them shine in the fundraising world. These attributes include having great interpersonal skills, commitment to the cause, determination and resilience, perseverance, integrity and honesty, being adaptable, ability to tell compelling stories, ability to research donors in depth, ability to motivate others, and creative thinking. Someone with these attributes will take your nonprofit to a higher level of achievement for the long term.
The Fundraising Detective’s five critical factors for success include having outstanding donor care and stewardship, fabulous storytelling, focus on legacies, integrated fundraising and keeping volunteers happy. Fundraising professionals must have knowledge and ability to understand changing data systems and how they work to the organization’s benefit. Having the ability to build and maintain relationships is vitally important. Having a sound operational plan and strategy to generate revenues is a must.
- Have impeccable integrity and support the AFP Code of Ethics.
- Be a good listener and an active listener for donor’s interests.
- Ability to motivate donors, volunteers and staff is a critical key for success.
- Be a hard worker and understand work will take many hours either early or late in the day.
- Concern for people by having empathy for all elements of the organization.
- Have high expectations from everyone and “strive to lead from the middle.”
- Love the work of the organization and all aspects of development.
- Have high energy and show it to others on a consistent basis.
- Maintain perseverance, and understand significant results take time.
- Always maintain presence by looking and acting like a professional.
Make a conscious decision to work only for organizations whose mission you feel passionate about. Strive to be a change agent where you work. Remember the donor’s interest is always the foremost consideration in any fundraising decision.
A Causevox blog suggests that the following four traits are key when hiring a fundraising professional. These traits are hiring someone that can map out and implement a fundraising strategy. The individual also needs to be detail oriented, relationship oriented and be persistent. Understand that the fundraising professional will encounter rejection and must be bold in their asking and caring for their donors.
According to Joan Garry, hiring a fundraiser is like selling a house. Her tips for acquiring the right person in the development position include taking an inventory and hiring a person with strengths to fit your problems. If you can, hire a “realtor” (recruiter) to find your prospect. Present your organization in the best light possible to your prospective candidate. Be honest with your candidates about the organization’s strengths and weaknesses. Sell the candidate on what makes your nonprofit special. Talk about intangibles and intrinsic motivators like meaning, relationships, autonomy and mastery.
Are you looking for your next fundraising professional? Make sure you understand the culture of your organization and people that work in the organization. Do an analysis of your administration, staff, board, volunteers and donors. Determine in your own mind what type of individual would succeed in your organization and will want to stay of a reasonable length of time.
If the fundraising professional will report to you, ascertain if you feel that person has chemistry with you, will respect you and others. Make sure you hire someone with experience and proven historical fundraising results from an array of sources and purposes. A good recruiting hire is key to your happiness in the future. A poor hire will not only cause you misery but will reflect on your management abilities by others.
In this time of uncertainty, seek to keep your fundraising team in place if possible. If that is not the case, take the time to make wise organizational restructuring, plus sound recruiting and hiring decisions. The job market will be unusual for at least several months. You may find excellent seasoned professionals available for hire in your market now. Strive to acquire a quality fundraising team as soon as possible. You need to be ready as the economy begins to shift back into gear!
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 email@example.com or 317-224-1029.