Successful strategies for hiring a development professional | npENGAGE

Successful strategies for hiring a development professional

By on Jun 2, 2011


 The following blog is by Tara Levy, senior consultant at Greenlights for Nonprofit Success. Greenlights strengthens nonprofits for extraordinary performance and
impact by providing valuable services and resources that are either free
or affordable, including management consulting services, professional
development workshops and conferences, in-depth research, a membership program and more. Thanks Tara for contributing!


Every hiring decision is important. Not only will a new hire will become part of your trusted team of professionals, focused on meeting your mission on a daily basis, but they will also be earning some portion of the precious resources you raise to benefit that mission. When you’re hiring the person that will be responsible for raising those resources, you really have to nail it because the viability and stability of your organization hinges on actually having the resources to do your work.

Whether you’re hiring a full-fledge Development Director, a Development Associate, or an Executive Director with significant fundraising duties, there are a number important factors to include in your search and hire process to help ensure a successful, strong hire. First of all, hire someone who carries around bags of money. Can’t find one of those? You’re not alone.

Here are three key strategies to consider when making your next development hire:

  1. Go local. The right candidate need not be born and bred in your organization’s hometown, but they need to have some working knowledge of and familiarity with local funders in order to be successful. When you interview, ask specifically about your organization’s key local funders and those you have been trying to reach.
  2. Nice is right. While a fundraiser doesn’t need to be an extrovert or world-champion schmoozer to succeed, they do need to be really nice to people. Your development staff should be good at setting people at ease, instinctively sending thank you notes, and being thoughtful and respectful to everyone they encounter. When a candidate comes to your office to interview, ask the receptionist up front about the candidate’s behavior and interaction. Be on the lookout for follow-up notes—and note if you don’t get one!
  3. Have them tell you stories. It’s hard for a resume to convey a complete understanding of someone’s cultivation approach and degree of success, so during the interview process, ask the candidate to walk you through a full cultivation process for a successful donor (and share why they think it worked) and for an unsuccessful one (and why it didn’t work). As you listen, reflect upon what elements would feel natural for your organization and which might seem unwieldy or poorly matched for your organization’s culture and mission.

In addition to these development-focused strategies, I’d like to share a bonus hiring strategy that Greenlights recommends for all new hires: have your final candidates complete the DISC assessment. This quick, online self-assessment provides information and clues about a prospective hire’s communication style and what types of communication they best respond to (so you should think about whom they’ll be working with on your team).


From time to time, a guest blogger will appear on npENGAGE. Guest bloggers are industry experts contributing useful, relevant content to the conversation on npENGAGE. If you are interested in being a guest blogger, contact the editor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *