There are thousands of frontline fundraisers interviewing for new jobs right at this moment. You may be one of them. Unfortunately, Richard and I are hearing from frontline fundraisers who recently accepted a new job and are regretting their decision.

Many jumped for the opportunity to make 30% or more in compensation only to find out the organization, while saying they were hybrid, now wants them in the office full-time. Or all of a sudden, they now find themselves having to project manage the annual gala in addition to having to meet an unrealistic revenue goal.

Remember, the non-profit fundraising world already had a staff retention problem pre-COVID. So, while organizations offering higher salaries or more benefits may seem tempting on the surface, you need to spend more time looking under the covers to see who this organization really is.

To help with your job hunt and interview prep, I’m going to give you some potential warning signs to be aware of based on what we’ve seen over the years. Here’s what to watch out for so you don’t make the mistake of leaving one problem only to jump into another.

If you notice any of the following when interviewing at a non-profit, it’s a serious red flag. And be doubly cautious if they offer to pay you double your current salary!

Warning Signs:
  1. The job description is over 2 pages long. This means they expect you to do more than build relationships with your donors and secure revenue for program. Anything longer than 2 pages… don’t even apply.
  2. In the interview process, they assume that you will bring over the donors you connected with at your previous non-profit. (I actually saw this recently in a LinkedIn post.) We’ve seen this quite a bit.
  3. There’s no structure for mid, major, or planned giving, and your revenue goal is not attached to individual donors. This means leadership will dictate your revenue goal, instead of basing it on the donors in your caseload.
  4. When you’re interviewing, they tell you that you’ll be prospecting for wealthy people, because they need more major donors.
  5. When you ask them about the different projects and programs they have to offer donors, they tell you not to worry about that because their donors just give to the general fund, and they don’t want restricted gifts.
  6. When you ask how they qualify donors, they look at you with a quizzical look on their face and say that if a person has a high enough wealth indicator number, they qualify for your caseload.
  7. When you ask how program and finance will interact with you, they tell you there’s no need for that because “your job is just to raise money from donors.”
  8. The non-profit’s KPIs focus on how many face-to-face visits, phone calls, emails, and asks you make. It says nothing about making meaningful connections or working your plan.
  9. The non-profit has no donor pipeline. This means they don’t have a strategic plan to acquire donors, cultivate them, and move them up to major gifts. They may not have a mid-level program. The expectation is that major gift officers both acquire and cultivate major donors.
  10. Your prospective manager was just promoted because they were the top revenue-producing MGO. This is usually a disaster for the major gift officer who must be managed by this person.

Keep this list in mind when you’re interviewing for a new position. Just because a non-profit is willing to pay you more, even a lot more, doesn’t mean you’ll find fulfilment there. You want to work for a non-profit that adds value to your life, not stress and burnout. Avoid any organization that exhibits any of the above problems, and you’ll have a greater possibility of finding that fulfillment.


PS — If you’re looking for tips on how to interview candidates for fundraising positions, check out our advice to managers on key hiring criteria to help you find the right fit for the role.