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How to ensure the success of your next fundraising hire

Posted June 21, 2018 by Virginia Davidson

When you’re hiring a new member of your development team, it is important to get a good grasp of your current development operations so you’ll be better able to hire the right candidate.

Before you delve into the interviewing process, there are four important questions to ask yourself:


Question #1: How is your development plan working?

Identify the elements of your development plan that are working well and those that are not. Your annual appeal may be the most important component of your plan, in which case you’ll need to hire someone who can maintain and build upon that success. If your special event is consistently falling short of your fundraising goal, is the new hire supposed to help change that? If yes, what skills/experience are you looking for to help with that?

Taking a close and careful look at your development plan will help you understand the realities of your fundraising operation so you can identify the key strengths you need. It will help to be candid with potential candidates so they’ll have a better sense of what the job entails. If you don’t have a development plan, that’s something to share with candidates—and creating one in collaboration with other staff can be one of your new hires’ first responsibilities! This resource will help you create a development plan.

Question #2: What are your goals for your next fundraising hire?

It’s important to clarify the goals for this position so you can write a high-quality job description. Maybe you’re hiring a person to launch a new fundraising initiative, such as a planned giving program. Clearly stating the goals helps staff, board, and potential hires all understand them.

You should also do some hard thinking to see if you may have goals for the position that are not yet defined. If you’re hoping this staff member will relieve you of specific fundraising tasks, for example, communicate those tasks clearly.

Question #3: What resources are available?

It’s important to be aware that a fundraiser’s success will be limited if some key resources aren’t currently in place. Will your new hire be inheriting an engaged board of directors and an existing donor database? If your board is hands-off when it comes to fundraising, your new hire will need to invest time in developing relationships and educating the board. If you’re hiring someone specifically to get your development operations up and running, be clear about the systems and budget available. Articulating what resources you’re providing will help potential candidates assess whether this job would be a good fit for them.

Question #4: How will you retain them?

The story doesn’t end once you make it through the hiring process and bring on a new team member. Studies have shown that there are high levels of turnover throughout the nonprofit sector and lengthy vacancies in development positions. It’s important to understand the costs of turnover and to be proactive about retaining good staff members. Competitive salaries are important, and there are also plenty of non-monetary benefits you can provide, which go a long way in keeping staff happy and productive. This article is full of strategies you can implement at your organization.


It’s easy to be so focused on the skills and traits you’re looking for in a new fundraising hire that you may forget to consider how your organization measures up as a potential employer. Taking these four questions into consideration will help you present a clear and organized plan to your prospective hires. The best prospects will be more interested in working someplace where planning for success is highly valued. Your organization will reap the benefits!


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