hiring your next fundraiser

We know there is a greater demand for fundraisers than there are talented people to fill the jobs. It doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO of a large organization or you have a small shop and are in need someone with smarts and skills to raise money for you.

Philanthropy has changed a lot since what I call modern philanthropy began at the beginning of the last century. I would say that today, it’s even more important to get the best people to work for your organization. And, yes, I get it. It costs money to get the best. But again, you have to invest in your organization if you hope to grow it.

Before you embark on the path to hiring a fundraiser, one of the first things you’re going to think about is salary. Be smart about it. Take time to do a little research. And think that a good fundraiser, in time, will actually pay for his or her salary.

 There are great resources out there so you can see salary surveys and comparisons. PNP Staffing Group has been putting out salary surveys for the last 15 years. Click here to check out their most recent surveys for large nonprofit cities such as New York and Washington, D.C. The Chronicle of Philanthropy has various premium resources, which you can find by clicking here. Finally, you can also get a premium compensation report through Guidestar, which you can check out here.

Money is important. Don’t skimp on investing in a talented fundraiser. If I were working at a small or medium-sized shop with limited financial resources, I would speak to a major donor to:

  1. Fund the purchase of these compensation reports, if needed; and,
  2. Make an investment in the salary of a creative and smart fundraiser who knows and has a proven record of raising money. With an excellent fundraiser, this particular investment by a major donor will have returns.

Next, take a look at your fundraising effort. What are you doing well? Where do you need to improve? What are your goals and objectives? Do you want to expand your fundraising efforts and revenue streams or do you want to do fundraising in one particular way? For example, are you looking to develop individual donors or do you want to fundraiser only from corporate and foundation grants and events? Are you looking for a specialist or a generalist fundraiser?

Understanding the answers to those questions is important. Depending on what you’re looking to do, the skill-set and track record of the fundraiser you’re looking to hire will be very different. One of the biggest mistakes I see time and time again are CEOs that want to fundraise in one particular way who hire someone with a specific skill-set for another type of fundraising.

Don’t make that mistake. If you want someone who’s a grant writer, don’t hire a professional whose core experience is major gift work.

I mentioned before that if you don’t have the money to hire a good fundraiser, you should ask a major donor for an investment. Here’s something to seriously consider as well: hire a recruiter. You’re a nonprofit expert. I’m sure you’re the best CEO there is in the work you’re doing. Think about hiring an expert recruiting firm that knows what to look for in a chief fundraiser.

Recruiters who have experience placing fundraisers in the nonprofit sector know what to look for. They’re professionals at what they do. A good recruiter will ask you the right questions and help you define the skill-sets and experience you require for your charity. When the job description is completed, a good recruiter will help you ensure you’re looking for the type of fundraiser you really want and need.

So many organizations go through a revolving door of fundraisers. Of course, the CEO thinks it’s always the fundraiser’s fault. But often it’s not. If there’s a revolving door of fundraisers, you need to see if a reason may be that you essentially set up a fundraiser for failure. One of the easiest ways to do this is by not having the competencies you need to be aligned with the individual who is doing the job.

Finally, you want to be honest. You want to present your organization in a positive light, but you have to be realistic. A good fundraiser will know there are probably challenges (and opportunities) in your fundraising efforts. That’s only natural. You want to communicate what these are to candidates.

If your organization is larger than a one-person shop, it probably makes sense to invite members of the team to have a conversation with a prospective fundraiser. Understand that a fundraiser is one of the few individuals who will likely interact with most everyone in a nonprofit. They will work closely with programs, marketing, finance, and operations teams, depending on the size of your charity.

Encourage team members to give fundraising candidates a positive, but realistic view of what it means to work at your charity. When the fundraiser asks you questions as the CEO, be frank. It’ll go a long way to helping ensure that you get someone on board who’s coming to the job with the best possible understanding of what it means to work at your organization.


Author of “Not Your Father’s Charity: How to Dominate Your Fundraising to Create Your Success” (Free Digital Download)

© 2016 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father’s Charity. All Rights Reserved.