Often, executive directors wonder, “what should I be looking for in a development candidate.” And, my answer is, it depends.
Development directors last an average of 16 months in their positions, it behooves management to do their diligence before they even hire a chief fundraiser. Where does one even begin?
Well, it starts even before you get to the job description question.
Here is what I recommend management should look at before mounting a search for their next candidate:
1 ) Determine where the critical leverage areas will be in your development office. A consultant often can be called in to do a quick transition audit to determine what areas within your development function that you can strengthen and where you should be focusing your efforts. Perhaps you may discover that individual and major gifts are where you next need to be headed.
2) Once you determine your crucial leverage areas of focus, then you need to identify what are the primary responsibilities for those leverage areas. Draft those up to become the core components of your job description.
3) From those responsibilities, you will now have a good sense of what “hard” and “soft” skills are needed. Hard skills are the ones required to do the job, i.e., things such as major donor work, prospect research, etc. Soft skills are more the personality sets that would be helpful, i.e., good work ethic, problem-solver, time manager, communication skills, and teamwork ability are all soft skills.
4) Also, take a look at your mission. What type of organization are you? And, what skills sets would be necessary for that person to have beyond adherence to the purpose, i.e., if you are a religious organization perhaps some understanding of the tenets of the religious faith, maybe have compassion, can connect with core beliefs of others, etc.
5) Also, identify what is most important for your candidate to have, i.e., hard skills or soft skills or a combination thereof.
6) Set realistic expectations for your new candidate. Be sure that management has asked the following tough question first:
Are we adequately prepared to invest in dedicated staffing yet?
Do we have funding for the position in question and is sufficient to attract a qualified person?
Is our board fully supportive of the hire?
Is there real interest within the organization to adopt multiple fundraising strategies?
How quickly do we expect development to ramp-up?
Does a “Culture of Philanthropy” already exist that will support such a position?
Does a year of salary and benefits for the position not exceed your entire fundraising budget?
7). If you answered no to any of the above questions, you might want to consider other staffing alternatives first. Contract and interim employees provide an advantage in that they can identify leverage areas quickly and thus have a higher rate of return faster, doing more in less time. Interim staff can pave the way for a fundraising program when not all the critical elements are in place and will help you determine if even a more sophisticated fundraising program is right for your organization.
8) Don’t think about support staff for this position, under you have identified your candidate. Staff your department based on strengths and weaknesses. You may find the ideal candidate who while has most of what you need in both hard and soft skills, does not have other. Then and only then should you allow that person to find the support that they need which compliments their own skill sets.
While when starting a search, most managers begin with the job description, I recommend that you need to do some homework and forward thinking even before that point to set your fund development office up for success. Once you identify some of the main elements above, you will be on your way to finding that ideal candidate who may defy the odds of the average development professional’s stay of 16 months.
Here are some more resources you may want to check out: