In a recent Chronicle of Philanthropy article (March 2016), an article titled: Finding a Fundraiser Who Can Find Big Gifts, addressed compensation issues, but little else. While this is a fundamental issue in the hiring process, it is not the most important.

After many years of supervising a Major Gifts program for The Salvation Army, as well as time at two other not for profit ministries, there are critically important steps needed to find and hire the right professionals. These steps are time tested and the results can be seen in a Major Gifts program raising more than $30 million annually.

The first step is to create a “selection criteria” for the position, specially stating the “criteria” or skill set and experience desired in candidates. While people involved in the search may think they know or have agreed on the criteria, often this is not so. Having it in writing, with a weighted score for each criterion focuses all interview participants to have agreed to the criteria. This compels the interview questions to focus on specific criteria and allows the candidate to clearly state their qualifications. Without an established, written selection criteria, the search and the interviews tend to wander, leaving the candidate with a sense that the organization does not really know what they are looking for in a candidate. I have attached a sample of such a selection criteria.

One of the vital elements of the hiring process is to determine the candidate’s connection and potential commitment to the “mission” of the organization. Candidates might have strong experience working with donors and asking for gifts. However, unless the candidate can clearly state their connection and commitment to the mission of the agency/ministry, their potential for long-term employment is doubtful. And, Major Gifts work is all about building long-term relationships and growing trust between the donor and the organization. We have found that if candidates do not

connect to the mission, they will not stay and their ability to build relationships in limited at best. During interviews, we clearly state our mission, and, ask the candidate to explain their connection and potential for committing to our mission. Their commitment will be readily seen and heard not only in the interviews, but also when hired and working with donors. The passion for the mission, shown and stated by Major Gift staff while working with donors is vital to securing donor’s commitments for gifts. The passion of the presenter carries significant impact with donors.

In the interviews, key insights can be gained by asking the right questions in the right way. In another posting, we will address what to do with your newly hired Major Gifts professional in their first two months with you.

Paul Curnow


Contact us for a free copy of a Sample Criteria Sheet:

The Bridge Consulting Group offers comprehensive support for the recruitment of all not-for-profit professionals.

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