You’ve decided it’s time to hire your first fundraising professional (yay!). Fundraising can be complicated work and requires a specialized skill-set.
Not only do fundraising professionals need to be good at research, but they need to be excellent at schmoozing and strategic thinking. That’s a lot to ask of one person, which is why many large nonprofits have multiple fundraising team members to fulfill these specific roles.
If you’re starting out with hiring your first fundraising professional, here are the top four traits you should look for so that you can ramp-up your fundraising efforts and sustainably grow.
Read our free donor engagement and retention strategy playbook here to learn best practices for improving your organization’s donor retention.
Hiring Trait 1: Strategic & Long-Term Thinker
Rockstar fundraising professionals should always be thinking about the long-term plan, the year-end fundraising goals, and the individual cultivation cycles of prospective donors.
And yet, they’re not just thinking about the long-term (raise $1 million by December 15) but also the tactical day-to-day steps to get there, while keeping in mind the bigger picture of why it all matters in the context of the organization and the world.
When hiring a fundraiser, look for someone who can map out and then implement a strategy–from identifying donors, to cultivation and making asks, to stewardship–with a vision for both the long-term plan and the individual tactics.
Hiring Trait 2: Detail Oriented
Fundraising is time consuming and detailed. You have to remember when you last spoke with a potential donor, how much they could potentially donate, their wife’s name, and your long-term strategy for making them a major supporter of your organization.
In reviewing candidates for a fundraising role, look for someone with an acute attention to detail, and a track-record of meticulously documenting information. They’ll likely be in charge of tracking all of this information in your nonprofit CRM as well.
Hiring Trait 3: Relationship-Oriented
At the end of the day, fundraising is about relationships. Your fundraising professional should care about relationships more than transactions, and should know that building trust and long-term relationships is the cornerstone for fundraising success.
Look for someone with experience in a longer sales or business development cycles, or who is a natural partnerships builder. If they care about building real relationships with donors, the rest is easy.
As Sasha Dichter, an expert fundraiser for Acumen, explains about a fundraiser’s relationship with their donors: “Whereas if you treat her as a person with whom you are building a real and substantive relationship, you can (counter-intuitively) talk comfortably, early on and directly about money.”
Hiring Trait 4: Boldness & Persistence
Great fundraising professionals are strategic, organized, and relationship-oriented. But they’re also the boldest risk-taker you know.
They ask that out-of-the-box question at the party, tell you things as they see it, and walk up to a perfect stranger to strike up an hour-long conversation on life, because they don’t fear rejection.
Your fundraising professional is asking people to support your organization, and they will get rejected a lot. They need to be able to make that bold ask of a prospective donor, and in doing so they’re not just asking for money; the risk-taking fundraiser is asking the donor to also take a risk in supporting your mission to bring to the world greater possibilities.
As social entrepreneur Jonathan Lewis writes, “The best fundraisers don’t fundraise. Instead, they teach people to take realistic – and unrealistic! – risks in the service of a better world.”
Hire the right fundraising professional with all of these traits (and more!), but if they don’t have them yet, find someone who is eager to grow and learn to gain these skills.
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