You can never hire enough people to help with fundraising. If you are strategic you will look for individuals with volunteer management experience who can help build and support a diverse team of fundraising volunteers. This is different from hiring someone to “solve all your fundraising problems.” While most written job descriptions don’t include the previous phase, the idea is often an unspoken desire that drives hiring decisions. Our advice: acknowledge your desire; then work diligently to identify the right person with the right skills. Fundraising experience is not enough. We suggest keeping the following qualities in mind as you proceed.
Strong people skills and writing skills are critical. Fundraising professionals need to interact well with people from different backgrounds, make them feel comfortable, and make an honest human connection. They also need to be able to craft clearly written letters, reports, short proposals and email messages.
Look for strong technology skills including word processing, mastery of spreadsheets and social media, and experience with donor databases that includes conducting searches and running reports.
Don’t overlook evaluating general office skills. A social media maven still needs to maintain accurate and up-to-date paper and electronic files that can be easily accessed by others. He or she will need strong time management skills as fundraising work never ends. Your ideal candidate should be able to work on multiple projects simultaneously and to meet (or beat) deadlines. Knowing how to prioritize is critical as timely communication with donors, volunteers and staff cannot be overlooked. Courteous and timely communication by phone, email or letter is a must.
So is an understanding of the development process or sales/marketing cycles. Development professionals need to be able to discern the important and different roles that volunteers, board members, donors, and staff can play in facilitating giving. Strong general marketing skills and an understanding of the sales and marketing process are a good background when hiring someone new to fundraising.
Given the many competing priorities that characterize the nonprofit sector, we suggest looking to hire people who are self-motivated and able to pursue tasks with a minimum of follow-up. Of course you want to make sure your candidate is willing and able to ask questions when unsure of next steps. He or she should be a team player who can work well with others; a strategic thinker who understands the longer-term implications of short-term goals and how they relate to increased giving; and an ability to grasp the bigger picture as well as the immediate tasks at hand.
What else to look for: creative, detail-oriented, risk-takers who can motivate others, and manage and facilitate activities from a background or behind-the-scenes position. Is that too much to ask for? We think not. Knowing who you’re looking for will make your search easier.
Mel and Pearl Shaw are the owners of Saad & Shaw. They provide fundraising counsel to Memphis, the Mid-South and the nation. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com or call 522-8727.