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The “Must” Qualities of Your Next Development Professional Hire

By Terri Harel

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Hiring a development professional for your nonprofit is a big deal. Whether you’re looking to hire a development director or a member for your development team, it’s important to recruit a topnotch fundraising professional who can help create, coordinate, and implement opportunities for donors to support your organization. And depending on the size and nature of your nonprofit, the job description can vary – from planning fundraising campaigns and activities, writing grants and tracking donations, identifying and cultivating prospective donors, to…all of the above.

It’s obvious that you’ll look for qualified candidates with the right skills and experience. But, remember that professional criterion isn’t the only critical component to a new hire; it’s imperative to find the right cultural fit for your organization. A potential hire will bring whomever they are to work everyday, so you’ll want someone who is well-suited for both the position and aligns with your organization’s core values, mission and culture.

But before you start sifting through a stack of applications, there are two things you need to define:

  • The culture of your organization
  • The specifics of role in question

What is your nonprofit’s culture, and how will they fit into it?

In order to find the best cultural fit for your organization, you need to first deeply understand the nature of your nonprofit, its unique mission, and the best way to talk about its impact (as well as define what impact means for you). This will carry over into the characteristics you look for in potential development hire.

There are many ways you can evaluate your organization’s culture. A good starting point can be to develop a list of your nonprofit’s core values. For example, ask yourself:

  • How do our team members operate? Independently? In collaboration? Both?
  • How do we promote personal growth?
  • How do we communicate with each other and our donors?
  • What is the atmosphere like in our working environment?
  • How do we measure our organization’s impact?

Once you determine your nonprofit’s culture, you’ll have a better understanding of the type of person that can uphold (or change) the culture, vision, and working style of your organization.

Do you, as an organization, know what you want from this role?

Across the nonprofit sector, “development” is a broad term that can imply many different hats. To specify what type of candidate to consider, it’s essential that you define the particular role you want to fill.

For example, if the position is on the front-facing side of your organization, you’ll most likely want someone who can effectively communicate your nonprofit’s unique story and impact, as well as be reflective of your organization’s culture as a whole. If the position focuses on handling major gifts, you may look for someone who can serve well as a primary contact for major and corporate donors. Or your chief concern might be finding an associate who can efficiently write grants, newsletters, and fundraising appeals, in which case you may focus on writing ability.

Your candidates will have many overlapping qualifications. However, a clear job description with specified tasks for the role ensures you prioritize the best talents and qualities needed.

4 Things to Look For Across the Board:

Now that you better understand your particular development “hat,” it’s time to recruit the best fit. Depending on the role and organization, your “must-haves” checklist will have a unique range of character traits. However, to get you started, here are 4 qualities that pertain to any effective fundraising professional:

  1. Relationship Driven: Donors give to people, not causes. This mantra is no different when it comes to your staff. Through effective communication and interpersonal skills, successful development officers can build and maintain personal, pleasing, and rewarding relationships with donors.
  2. Cool Headed:  At the same time, relationships can have their road bumps. A development professional has the patience, tolerance, and tact to handle a wide variety of volunteers and donors, including those who may be disappointed or upset. Therefore, they can also handle various administrative flare-ups with grace and persistence.
  3. Resilient:  For every great campaign, you might have an idea that fails. However, development rockstars can pick themselves up and do it again. Stellar professionals are unafraid to roll with them, go back to the drawing board, and learn along the way.
  4. Adaptable:  The social sector is always changing, and so are the ways that donors want to give. No matter the size or nature of the organization, an effective development professional can adapt and respond to what donors want. They acclimate to the particular ways new and young supporters want to fundraise, and reach more supporters.

To take your fundraising to new heights, first define your overall company culture and how the prospective development function relates to it. This will guide you in finding an excellent fundraiser who can connect effectively and passionately with your organization’s audience and unique vision.

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