We know that fundraising has suffered this year. And because of it, nonprofit leaders have looked not only into fundraising ideas but also at other revenue activities. One of the things you should do is think about hiring a major gifts officer. As you know, events often have a cost of $0.30 to $0.40 on the dollar. Sure, virtual fundraising ideas have taken root. But, as things normalize, a major gift officer is still a good investment. For instance, the cost for major gift fundraising is about $0.10 for every dollar raised.

Savvy nonprofits understand this, and that’s why many have a robust major donor program. The reality is that almost any nonprofit can hire a major gifts officer.  All it takes is the will to make the investment, which you could do by asking for funding from a wealthy donor or institutional capacity building grant.

If you seek to hire a major gift officer, you should ask several key questions. The best major gift officers get paid well for their work. And there’s a reason for that. It’s because they can exponentially grow the budgets of their charities. However, they have to be excellent at what they do—and they have to like it.

Hiring Now: What Makes a Major Gifts Officer Different?

If you seek to hire a major gift officer, know that they are different than other fundraisers. Typically, they thrive and enjoy getting to know people. They would rather be meeting with a prospect than in the office. Further, major gifts officers are exceptional communicators so they could tell the story of your nonprofit. Major gifts officers also know persistence with tact to overcome the donor objections they encounter. Most importantly, they are confident and comfortable making an ask.

Therefore, when interviewing, you should make sure to ask three questions. These questions will ensure that you hire the right candidate.

1. What is your experience doing major gift fundraising?

The person you want to hire now has to have real experience working exclusively with major gift prospects and donors. So, this question allows you to discuss their major gift experience broadly. However, it would help if you also asked them some detailed follow-up questions. For instance, have they carried a portfolio of prospects? If so, how many prospects and major donors have they worked with at any given time?

Remember, someone might have great experience working as a grant writer or in events. However, major gift fundraising is a whole other ballgame.

2. As I consider hiring now, tell me of your 3 most significant major gifts.

Your aim with this question is to understand their major gift process and amounts raised. For example, if you want your major gift officer to secure gifts of $100,000, you don’t want to hire someone whose highest gift amount was $1,000. As a result, this question helps you understand the level of their fundraising experience concerning major gift asks.

In addition, by asking them to go through each of the processes with you, you get a handle as to how they work with prospects. Further, you get a handle on their use of technology, such as boodleAI or other technology vital to fundraising. Finally, you also learn if your candidates have an understanding of the major gifts continuum before hiring them.

3. What is your worst experience working with a major gift prospect?

The reason to ask this question is that you get to know how a prospective hire deals with challenges. In other words, you want to understand their thought process. So, when they deal with a problematic donor or prospect, how do they remain positive and productive?

Also, this is a good question that will help you ascertain their attitude to their work, colleagues, and difficult people. And, you’ll also find out if the person learned anything, or thought they learned something.

In sum, I’ve seen it often. Nonprofit leaders hire a major gift officer on a gut or because the candidate was excellent in another position. Still, hiring a major gift officer is a task that should get made thoughtfully, and with a lot of due diligence and time. Remember, you’re looking to hire one of the most critical people on your fundraising team.


© 2020 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father’s Charity. All Rights Reserved.