Just as it is crucial to use a criteria-based method in selecting and retaining nonprofit marketing and fundraising consultants, so too it is essential to hire staff with the traits identified with fundraising success. Get it right and your organization is poised for short and long-term revenue growth. Get it wrong, and you set your organization back a minimum of 3 years.
So, what are the ‘must haves’ a development professional should bring to the table that will help build a culture of success? During my nearly 20 years in this business, I’ve found that a diverse combination of some obvious characteristics as well as some less intuitive ones yields the greatest return.
If you are leading an executive search for a fundraising staff member, the candidate with all the following attributes will provide the maximum return on investment:
Salesmanship. This seems like a no-brainer, but I’ve encountered a few awkward or laconic personalities in my day that are the front face of an organization, with predictable difficulty advancing relationships. Regardless of how your revenue-base is built, your development lead should be an enthusiastic and engaging drum major for your band, setting the tempo with a contagious presence that inspires others to come along. He or she can talk to anybody about almost every topic but artfully pivoting back to the mission of your agency.
Strategic. Strong fundraising results are not ad hoc; they are the result of a well-developed plan that is expertly implemented. On this front, salesmanship is not enough to take your organization to new heights. Your fundraising pro needs to demonstrate an ability for precision planning, time management, knowing what new opportunities to embrace versus those that are bound for failure.
Wordsmithing. Every office is different, but with grants representing an increasingly growing piece of the philanthropy pie, it is incumbent that your development pro demonstrates an ability to write diversely and persuasively, and oftentimes parsimoniously (as we’ve all encountered the online application portals and the dreaded 500-character max field boxes). Someone who can think and sell but can’t string a sentence together is going to hold back your performance immensely.
Grit. The best fundraisers I know are the grittiest. These are the ones who have had to overcome obstacles, relish challenges, take risks, and are willing to hustle when others are resting on their laurels. This trait is especially useful when you encounter hard times as an agency – which almost all will at some point in their existence. Give special attention to those who demonstrate success with small and financially distressed budgets. Fundraising grit will persist even in the face of long odds and will continuously innovate to generate new opportunities.
Confidence. Confidence is contagious, not just for other staff but for external stakeholders. So many times, I’ve seen fundraisers play it safe by making bare-minimum solicitations, for fear of rejection or offending a donor with an upgrade ask. Your chief fundraisers should have an unwavering belief in themselves and in the good work of your organization, so much so that no request is too audacious given the right relationships. If you get a whiff of self-doubt in your interview process, show the confidence yourself to move on quickly.
A truism for most any industry is that recruiting the top talent will lead to superior results. Fundraising talent isn’t simply based on degrees in nonprofit management or even vast expertise in the particular subject area of your work. The best at this job show a propensity to plan and persist, to innovate and adapt, and to welcome the pressure of this outcome-based industry. If your search brings you a candidate that exemplifies these ideals, start working a plan for how they can grow with your company.
With individual giving predicted by many experts to decline substantially this year, it is vital to nurture the relationships you have with key champions, and together chart a bold course forward for your mission.
When most of your nonprofit revenue comes from private donors, you need strategic processes in place to identify potential donors and communicate with them effectively.
This is where marketing comes in.
Is your marketing team well versed in modern marketing strategies?
Read our guide entitled 10 Questions to Ask Your Marketing Team About Donor Acquisition Strategies to find out.
You can download it here.
About Perry Jowsey
Perry Jowsey, CFRE is a professional fundraiser and featured speaker who has been leading financial turnarounds for more than a decade, where he has generated more than $20 million in revenue specializing in small and financially distressed budgets. Perry has worked with local and international media, foreign government delegations, and philanthropists on the Forbes 400. In unparalleled acts of fundraising success, he has cut costs while producing ROI’s as large as 4000%, leading to features in national trade publications and special invitations to present to groups around the United States. Here is the link to Perry's LinkedIn profile