badapple 2015-Feb11
In Part 1 of this two-part series on Hiring Criteria I talked about the importance of making sure that anyone you hire for a fundraising/MGO position has the right attitude. If you have not read that post, please read it now for context on what I am going to say next.
My main point was this: if you have a MGO in the organization that really does not value donors, is not a team player and cannot accept constructive criticism, you have a person that does not fit, no matter how good they are. And you know what one bad apple does to the whole bunch. So don’t let it happen.
But if the person you are going to hire passes this initial test, then it’s time to move on to other criteria Jeff and I use to decide whether the potential hire will really work out.
But before I get going on that list, I am assuming you have determined that the person you want to hire is committed to the mission of your organization. If they aren’t, please do not hire them. I have been involved recently in helping three clients vet major gift talent. I am routinely shocked at the lack of knowledge many of these candidates have about the mission of the organization that is considering them for employment. Shocked.
If you really don’t care about animals, why are you interviewing for a job at an animal care and protection organization? If you really don’t care about the poor and disadvantaged, why are you interviewing for a job at a social service organization? If you don’t care about the environment, why are you trying to get a job with a conservation/environment organization?
It just doesn’t make sense.
Oh, so all you want is a job? You really don’t care about the cause? If you, as the hiring manager, find this to be the case in your interviewing process, run out of the room! You dare not hire that person. And if you are in an organization where you really do not have any intellectual or spiritual connection to the mission of the organization, you really do need to go work somewhere else where the heart connection doesn’t matter, although I personally do not know of any situation like that either in the non-profit or commercial world.
So, is the person committed to your cause? Figure that out. Then…
Is the person sales-oriented? A good salesperson (read MGO):

  1. Understands that a good donation (like a good sale) is, at its core, an exchange of values. Each person gets something and gives something of perceived equal value to the other party. From this understanding, a good MGO will work to discern what the donor values and what the donor wants, and he will offer to give them those values and wants in exchange for a gift. This is how it works. As we have said many times, major gifts is about understanding a donor’s interests and passions and offering to fulfill those interests and passions in exchange for financial involvement. Pretty basic, yet still very profound and complex.
  2. Is people-oriented. I suppose this goes without saying. But it has to be said, because there are quite a few people we have met in major gifts that really do not enjoy others. How these folks got in the organization is beyond me. But you can quickly tell, by the stories the candidate tells, and even the language and posturing in the interview, whether the person really enjoys others.
  3. Desires to be in the field vs. in the office. A good MGO just loves to be out with donors. And many good MGOs just hate being in the office dealing with paperwork, meetings, more paperwork and bureaucrats. So when you are interviewing, if you pick up clues that the whole office thing is a nuisance, you might be on to a really good person! Seriously. Now that doesn’t mean that the person, once hired, doesn’t need to follow the rules and do the paperwork (please keep it to a minimum). They do. But they don’t have to like it!
  4. Enjoys getting results through their own efforts. The thrill for a good MGO or salesperson is making the gift or sale happen. There is nothing better. They made it happen. It would not have happened without them. That is a key characteristic of a good MGO – they love to get results through their own efforts. This does not mean they are not a team player – that is a different topic. This is about satisfaction and payoff.
  5. Has a high degree of confidence. Not arrogance; confidence. Is sure about the program he or she is presenting to the donor. Knows the facts. Leads. Moves forward.
  6. Handles rejection well. Understands that the ratio of “no’s” to “yesses” is very high. But also understands that the path to a “yes” is through a “no” – and can persevere when a donor does not want to move ahead with a gift. Does not take “no” personally.
  7. Is restless and achievement-oriented. This trait is not to be confused with a lack of focus, although at times it can feel like that is what is happening. Is eager to “get out there” and make things (achievement) happen.

This is what it takes to be sales-oriented. There are two more attributes or characteristics that the person you hire must have.
First, does the person have above-average verbal/written communication skills? At its core, major gift work is about being able to effectively and persuasively communicate the benefit of giving to a program that will help other people, animals, nature – the planet. It is not an easy “sell.” First, the MGO must have an intellectual grasp of what the organization is trying to do. Then they must understand how that “doing” aligns to a donor’s passions and interests. Then they need to be able to communicate that quid pro quo effectively.
I do not expect a person to be equally as good verbally as they are in writing, or vice versa. In fact, I do better at writing than I do verbally. And Jeff is better verbally, although he does a great job at writing. But regardless, a good MGO needs to be a good communicator.
And lastly, does the person understand the need for and accept accountability? This point relates to the emphasis on attitude in my earlier post. If a person rejects accountability in their lives, they are rejecting input and guidance, the very thing they need for their success. Not only is that foolish – “there is wisdom in counsel” – it is fatal. Accountability is not about “getting in trouble.” It is about getting out of trouble, because you have allowed the wisdom and guidance of someone else to help you off a treacherous path. If the person you are going to hire does not understand and accept this basic concept, you should not hire them.
One of the most important resources and assets in any organization is a human being. Successful organizations (for-profit and non-profit) treat this asset very seriously. They hire, retain and value this important resource seriously. And they fire seriously. This one area is critical in major gifts, which is why Jeff and I spend so much time talking about it.
You can’t just let anyone into your organization. So take your time and make sure they fit. It will be good for you and what you are trying to do on the planet. It will be good for them. And it will be good for your donors.