I work primarily with nonprofits, primarily in the area of fundraising. Much of my work is with development directors, and—as the typical development professional changes jobs every 18 months—the people I work with are often looking for a new job. In fact, with most of my individual coaching clients, we are working on just that.
There are so many issues that surround career search, starting with the inertia most of my clients feel about finding a new job. Sometimes that is a good thing; they are considering moving for not very good reasons. Most, however, are in situations that are less than ideal and need to move on. But moving forward is a real problem for them.
For others, there is the (unjustified in my mind) questions about whether they are qualified for a fundraising job where either gift size is larger than what they have been working with or where they are not currently familiar with the specific area where the organization lies. For example, a fundraising position for a college of agriculture required a knowledge of agricultural issues. Limiting their pool and probably cutting out talented fundraisers who could learn the issues in a short period of time. Not enough the teach the subject, perhaps, but they were not hiring faculty; rather they were looking for someone who could raise money for the college.
As for the size of gifts, well in most cases we are talking about precisely zero. That is, a major gift for one organization may be $1,000; for another it is $10,000. Or the largest gift you’ve ever encountered was $1,000,000 and this organizations wants experience in 7 figures. The size of gift one can get relies heavily on the organization far more than the fundraiser. Someone who is skilled at connecting people to organizations can make that leap easily.
Once we get past those issues, and applications are actually sent, the next hurdle of course is the interview. If you are at this point, I would just advise that your remember that this is your interview as much as theirs.
Too often we covet jobs because the title is better, the salary higher, the organization more well known. I say, make sure you think about the things that truly matter, and ask questions that will clarify their culture. Ask:
- How do they manage?
- How are decisions made?
- What are their goals for the next year, five years?
- Do they currently have the capacity to reach those goals and if not, what are their plans to increase their capacity?
- If this is a development job, where does development sit at the company table? You really want to know if it is central or off to the side and is YOUR responsibility or do they understand that fundraising is the job of everyone at the nonprofit, staff and volunteer alike.
- Do they have a strategic plan; do they use it? Is development part of that plan?
Too often we think of interviews as them deciding if they want us, we forget that we will have to be there daily–will that be a goof thing or will you quickly be turning to the want ads, hoping to find a better next job?
Janet Levine works with nonprofits and educational organizations, helping them to increase fundraising capacity. She also does individual coaching, helping executive directors, development directors, and board members hone their fundraising and leadership skills. Learn more at http://janetlevineconsulting. While there, sign up for the free newsletter.