Fundraising plays a vital role in every non-profit organization. Doesn’t matter if the employees earn huge salaries (as they do working for United Nations, for example, or for Red Cross), or if they work for free. The operation of the non-profit costs money, so do the activities, traveling of the volunteers, accommodation, and so on, and so forth.
And though in many non-profits salaries of staff members eat up the vast majority of the budget, it still makes sense to donate to these organizations, and try to help make a positive difference in the world. Working as a fundraising manager, you will be responsible for raising as much money as possible, finding new donors and maintaining excellent relationship with existing donors.
Honestly, it is one of the most important jobs in each non-profit, and organizations choose their fundraising managers cautiously. You can expect a difficult interview, and a competition of many other candidates. Let’s have a look at the questions you may face on the big day.
Why do you want to work as a fundraising manager?
You can definitely say that you want to make a positive difference, that you’ve been always attracted to non-profit, and are aware of the inequality in the world, and of the suffering many people experience. That’s the motivation, the driving force that will help you overcome low days at work, and grab the phone and call those prospective donors, even when you do not feel like doing it, or even if they rejected you before.
But you should not end your answer at this point. It is important to explain that you believe to have what it takes to be an excellent fundraising manger. You can start with amazing communication skills, planning and time management skills, courage–that’s an important one, experience with talking to different bodies from both general public and corporate world, sound knowledge of the charity sector, and other strengths that make from you a good candidate.
Can you tell us something about your previous working experience?
You should focus on relevant experience. Now it doesn’t necessarily mean an experience from some other non-profit organization, though such experience is a huge plus. Any experience communicating with different bodies, generating leads, selling something, trying to convince someone, and basically any experience which demonstrates your ability to get some donors onboard, and to convince them (in good means) to open their wallet repeatedly, is relevant for your interviewers.
If you have no previous experience in the field, or no working experience at all, you should still show confidence in your ability to handle the job. Sure enough, you’ve never done similar type of work. But your excellent communication skills, your motivation and honest desire to achieve something in non-profit, and your willingness to learn from more experienced staff members, will without doubt help you get over the hurdles and eventually deliver the results they expect from you.
How do you imagine your typical day in work of a fundraising manager?
The key is to show realistic expectations–and that means spending the majority of your days in front of a computer screen, writing emails, making phone calls, communicating with donors. Without a doubt you will attend some gala and high-profile fundraising events once in a while, dressing nicely, meeting interesting people, trying to find donors for your cause. You may even organize such events as a part of your job.
The majority of your work, however, will be in front of your computer screen and on the phone. And that’s exactly what you should tell the hiring managers. One more thing to consider is whether you’ll have any subordinates, either employees or volunteers, people who’ll help you with your fundraising efforts. This really depends on the organization of the place, the size of the charity, and other factors. But you should never say that you only want to plan the work and delegate it to other people in the team. That’s not how it works in fundraising, and hiring mangers expect quite a different attitude from you.
How do you want to find suitable fundraising opportunities?
You should do some research prior to your interview. Most NGOs run transparent accounts, and you can find a list of existing donors on their website. Look at the entities on the list. Are they individuals, or companies? What is the frequency of their donations? And how much do they donate in average? What do they have in common?
This should help you understand the profile of a typical donor, or several such profiles, and you can say that you will start your research from there–fishing in the same pool, metaphorically speaking. Needless to say, you can be creative at this point, and suggest all sorts of fundraising activities–events for invited guests, distributing leaflets, cold calling to organizations, public events, online ads, viral videos on YouTube, and so on.
The key is to show them that you have an idea, and want to proactive research fundraising opportunities, and won’t just sit in your office, waiting for some phone call which may never come, or for a miracle…
We have over 100 donors on our list currently. What will you do to make sure that they won’t stop donating?
This one is relatively simple. First of all, you’ll keep in touch with them. That means sending an email from time to time, maybe informing them about the projects of the organization (so they can see the difference they made with their donations), going to events they organize, and basically making sure that the connection stays alive.
Second idea, which almost always works, is sending them some tangible recognition of their support. Maybe a nice framed certificate of a donor once a year, or a postcard expressing your gratitude, and gratitude of the target group, or anything else they can display in their office for their customers and business partners to see. Charity is an important part of PR, and you should allow your donors to benefit from their donations at least in this way.
You will manage a small team of volunteers, who will raise money directly on the street. How do you plan to motivate them in work?
It may surprise people that in the 21st century, in the age of technology, many non-profit organizations live from money they collect directly on the street, either on one or two special days of a year (when they send hundreds of volunteers to the streets), or with a regular weekly fundraising effort. And you may manage such a team in your job.
Show the hiring managers that you are no beginner when it comes to managing people and motivating them. One option is talking about a similar situation from the past-perhaps a team you led in your last job, explaining how you managed to motivate people in the team. Another option is suggesting different ways of motivating the volunteers.
One of them is simply making sure that they are aware of where the money goes, and see a meaningful purpose in what they do. Second is providing excellent training to each volunteer, to make sure they reap the maximum rewards from their efforts in the street. Third is going by example, joining the volunteers on the street for a couple of hours, approaching people, and demonstrating that you truly believe in your cause. Forth way is promising rewards to the most successful volunteers (those who collect most money), or to everyone who passes a certain threshold… These are just some ideas, and you can add more to your answer.
Other questions you may face in your fundraising manager interview
- In your opinion, what are the most effective marketing strategies for an organization like this one?
- Do you have any experience with organizing charity events, or with participating in them?
- Imagine that things do not go as planned and you raised only 70% of the target sum in a quarter. How will you react?
- Tell us about a time when you had to work on multiple tasks simultaneously. How did you prioritize?
- How would you describe your communication skills?
- Tell us about a time when you experienced a crisis of motivation. What did you do to overcome it?
- Have you ever felt overwhelmed with work?
- Role play: Imagine that I am a prospective donor, and we meet by an accident in a fundraising event. Start talking to me, trying to convince me to donate something for your cause.
- Describe a time when you struggled to build a relationship with someone important. How did you eventually overcome that?
- Describe the situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone.
- Why should we hire you, and not one of the many other applicants who try to get this job?
Final thoughts, next steps
Interview for a job of a fundraising manager belongs to difficult job interviews. We live in strange and uncertain times. Many people look for a meaningful purpose in life, and working for a non-profit organization can provide such a purpose. For this reason and several others, you will compete with many other candidates for the job, which logically makes it more difficult to succeed.
On the top of that, you’ll have to deal with some tricky scenario-based questions, just like I described in this post. Try to learn as much as you can about the organization before the interview. Check out their list of donors, and try to understand how you can make something happen, how you can bring new donors and funds onboard. Having some plan can help you stand out in the interviews. You should also try to prepare at least a short answer to each of the questions, and check also other online resources. I hope you will manage to succeed, and wish you best of luck!
May also interest you:
- Program director interview questions – Another prestigious role in non-profit. Some questions may overlap in both interviews and you should check them out.
- How to overcome interview nerves – You need to be at your very best to have any chances in this interview. Learn how to overcome anxiety and make sure that you avoid embarrassing silence in your meeting with the hiring managers.