Every day, in nonprofits across the country, the question is being asked – who can lead our fundraising campaign or manage our development office? What type of person does it take? What does the ideal fundraising leader look like today? If your list of qualifications starts and ends with the phrase experienced fundraising professional, we have a few suggestions for additional qualities to round out your list.
First you want someone who believes in the vision of your organization. Ideally their past personal and/or professional experience bears this out: You can see that they dedicate their time to priorities that are in sync with those of your nonprofit. We recommend looking for people who are self-starters, who can manage multiple priorities, and are technologically up-to-date. They should be a good listener, open to the ideas and thoughts of others, and quick to acknowledge and recognize good work. You want someone who can manage people, time, and money. Sometimes this is a juggling act, but all three resources are equally important.
Your ideal fundraising leader is transparent, accountable, and trustworthy. They do what they say they are going to do; they deliver on their promise. They seek out people with ideas that are different from theirs, knowing that we all need help from others to see what we cannot see. You want a proactive team player who demonstrates excellence by example, setting the bar through their actions. This includes managing with a sense of urgency and balancing that urgency with an understanding that most things take time and don’t happen right away. Your ideal fundraising leader cares about their team members and doesn’t frivolously burn people out with one high priority thing after another.
You want someone who does not need the spotlight to shine on them: The best fundraisers often work in the background, shining the spotlight on others. They are risktakers and innovators who don’t like losing. At the same time that they are creative and willing to “push the envelope,” they also know where the boundaries are and are sensitive to the pace at which an organization can adapt to change.
Here’s a quality that can be easily overlooked: You want someone who likes people! Fundraising is all about people. It’s the people you work with, the people you serve or advocate for, and the people who grow your organization’s fundraising. If your fundraiser doesn’t like people, it will show, especially in the little things, like demonstrating kindness or listening even when you are in a rush. Other things to look for are people who answer their phone, email, text messages, and other communications. You want a person who can plan and implement. Someone who can set goals, modify them when needed, and say “no.” Most importantly, your ideal person needs to be willing. If they are only half-hearted about leading this important work, keep looking until you find someone who wants to work with you. Hiring isn’t easy today, but it’s easier if you know what you need.
Copyright 2023 – Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. Video and phone conferencing services always available. No need for a conference to learn with us! Let us help you grow your fundraising. Call us at (901) 522-8727 or visit www.saadandshaw.com.