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Hiring a fundraiser is hard work. It’s probably the most difficult position to fill in your organization, even more than a Director sometimes! Good fundraisers have similar traits, however. The subject has been researched by a number of scholars and professionals. As a fundraiser myself, I can confirm that these studies are very accurate and self identify with many of these traits. Yet new clients and employers rarely ask me these questions, instead focusing on experience or ‘rates of success’.

Here is a summary of some of the seminal advice on the subject, and some ideas of how to frame your interview questions to get the right person for your charity. 

hiring a fundraiser - 4 stacked rocks

Impeccable Integrity – Trait #1

Jerold Panas’ epic 2003 work, Born to Raise, highlights the findings from a survey of 3,000 fundraisers. While fundraisers have very diverse backgrounds and personalities, when analyzed, similarities emerge across fields and demographics.  The top traits are:

  • Impeccable integrity
  • Good listener
  • Ability to motivate
  • Hard worker
  • Concern for people
  • High expectations
  • Love the work
  • High energy
  • Perseverance
  • Presence

Integrity is so important to a fundraiser because donors will not give to people they do not trust. It’s an often overlooked trait when hiring that can make or break the capacity of your new colleague to be successful or not. The best ones are brutally honest and have extremely high ethical standards.

Think about asking questions specifically that measure integrity. Recruit Loop suggests the following:

  1. Give a specific example of a policy you conformed to with which you did not agree. Why?
  2. Discuss a time when your integrity was challenged. How did you handle it?
  3. Tell me about a time when you experienced a loss for doing what is right. How did you react?

Also read: How to Attract a Wealthy Donor to Your Cause

Lack of Egotism – Trait #2

The Leverhulme Trust commissioned a three year study completed in 2016 measuring the traits of 1,000 British Fundraisers. While the study does not have a ‘top’ list such as Panas’ study, it found very interesting trends across demographics. Some are obvious, like fundraisers are ‘fun’ and likable. And they have high emotional intelligence, understanding people intuitively. Crossing with Panas, they are good listeners and passionate. More than 30 percent give blood, and nearly 90% love to give gifts (much higher than the average British person).

Some are less obvious. For instance, a lack of egotism.

Often, people think fundraisers are out to get credit for the funding they raise. Fundraisers are even asked to tally their winning grants, and keep tables and statistics of how ‘successful’ they are. Good fundraisers likely have no idea how much they have raised, or at least they have to think hard about it.

This is easy to discover in an interview. Ask questions about what their idea of success is, as well as whether or not they like to work on teams. And never ask your fundraisers to work in credit based systems, where they get rewards or bonuses for pulling in grants!

Fundraisers are Readers – Trait #3

Interestingly, the Leverhulme Study found that all but 2% of fundraisers are avid readers. They particularly like psychological books. This could be the most easy and telling way to find your new fundraiser.

Ask your candidates what the last three books they read were. Were they psychological thrillers, compelling biopics of complex people, or legal justice novels? This could be very telling!

Also read: 6 Tips to Apply Positive Persistence to Get Your Donation

Fundraisers are Two Faced – Trait #4

The Leverhulme Study calls it ‘Janus Faced’. Good fundraisers all share this trait. They are one way in front of donors and other colleagues – outgoing, lovable, the life of the party, the best friend. But once they get behind their office door, they are incredibly organized and meticulously administrative. Every detail is important to the best fundraisers.

Many are even introverted, or at least conscientious on work personality assessment scales. Fundraisers often come up as ENFJs on the Myer Briggs Scale, for instance.

  • Extraverted – a person that is energized by time spent with others (feeds off of donor energy).
  • Intuitive – focuses on ideas and concepts (big picture thinkers and go with their gut).
  • Feeling – makes decisions based on feelings and values (passion, integrity, and empathy creating emotional intelligence).
  • Judging – prefer to plan and organize (the two faces, when she gets behind her office door!).

You can ask someone these questions in an interview. Many even know their personality type on Myers Briggs, or other assessments. Your fundraiser will come across as likeable, passionate, and full of big ideas. Your job is to decipher if she is conscientious and organized, if she has the Janus face as well!

When you are looking for a fundraiser, it is so critical to make sure you are asking the right questions! Too often, fundraisers are compared to marketers or sales people. But really they have a different set of skills that makes them want to help people, in a very selfless way.

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