Hiring a successful fundraising professional is the toughest job of a nonprofit leader. Every day your organization goes without an unfilled fulltime fund development position you are losing money.  But the other side of that coin is that if you hire the wrong person in that fundraising position, you will lose more money… much more.

Rule #1: Be prepared to staff appropriately. Hiring a single fundraiser is never the ultimate solution.  For every front-line fundraiser in the field (meeting with donors) you will need at least one donor service or marketing person in-house supporting their activities in the field. The revenue metrics are simple. For smaller organizations, for every $500,000 you raise, you are going to need at least two full time employees, one that is in the field and one in the office.  For larger organizations, that metric scales to two employees per $1 million raised.  The ratio usually works out to 25% of revenue raised is spent on staffing/support.  You need to prepare your board and senior staff for this reality of income growth.

Rule #2: Hire someone who has done it before. Hire a fundraiser with proven experience in raising money, not someone who just likes to talk about it.  Verify what they tell you in their resume.  Their former employers should confirm it and as important, the applicant should be willing to share the names of a donor or two who would endorse their relationship. (You’ll never ask these people for money, but you do want to find out what they think about the fundraising applicant.)

Rule #3: Write a “real” job description. Job descriptions are misunderstood and rarely written correctly, but they can be the best tool for hiring the right person.  Job descriptions morph over time as additional duties were added to previous staff.  Often the original job description, was a “cut & paste” template that did not reflect the culture or passion of the nonprofit.  If you are hiring a front-line fundraiser, be sure to detail how many days a month they are expected to be in the field doing donor visits and networking activities.  Most nonprofit organizations expect 50% of their time in the field.  So, out of 20 business days a month they are expected to travel or work in the field 10 business days a month.  Literally , 2 to 3 business days a week.  Working from their home office does NOT count as a day in the field with donors.

Rule #4: Be honest about your level of fundraising.  If the organization has struggled with fundraising, say so.  You should share your budget.  You should share what has worked well and where you have struggled in fund development.  Don’t be afraid to ask for the applicants’ thoughts and advice during the interviews.  What would be their initial steps?  How would they fix your problems? Whether you hire a candidate or not, you will learn something new about your program needs with every candidate you consider.

Rule #5: Recruiters Will Pay For Themselves.  Find a recruiter that specializes in placing fundraisers. I always cringe when I see a recruiter with zero nonprofit fundraising experience doing a development staff search.  Spending 15 to 30% of the annual salary to get the right candidate, who spends the next several years with your organization, is worth the money… hands down, no hesitations! 

FitFundraising.com now has a recruiting division to place more than 2,000 fund development professionals we have helped train over the last decade.  If you are looking for proven effective fundraisers or if you are a great fundraiser in need of a new opportunity, contact us:  recruiter@fitfundraising.com phone 434.381.3185