Are you having a hard time finding frontline fundraising talent? You’re not the only one. We’re hearing from our clients how difficult it is finding people to respond to job postings and recruitment efforts. Additionally, if you read any of our trade publications, it seems like everyone in our sector is finding it difficult to hire.

One of the solutions to this, and one that we have advocated for a long time at Veritus, is to hire folks outside our sector.

Yep, don’t look for fundraisers. Look for people with the right attributes and attitudes!

While they may not have direct fundraising experience, they do have transferrable skills, and with proper training, they can become amazing fundraisers.

Here are some ideas I’ve gathered from my colleagues and other resources that can help you think “outside the box” to solve your staff vacancy problems:

What for-profit jobs translate into great fundraisers?

  1. Anything client-facing, like client management, customer service, or sales
  2. Communications
  3. Advocacy
  4. Financial Advisory
  5. Recruiting
  6. Teaching
  7. Legal Practice

As you know, frontline fundraisers need great communication skills. Anyone with experience in the areas above may have the ability to become a great fundraiser.

Key Traits

Okay, let’s talk now about key traits you are looking for. We have some more extensive White Papers on the traits of exceptional Major Gift Officers and Mid-Level Officers, but here’s a quick snapshot of what we see in extraordinary fundraisers.

  1. Strong Emotional Intelligence – They’re tuned in and aligned with the donor.
  2. Deeply Curious – They’re authentically and genuinely curious about the donor (their interests, their preferences) and see them as a whole person beyond just a donor to your organization.
  3. Can Handle Rejection – Hearing a “No” or not getting a response at all is part of the job. This is hard, but it’s the reality of this work. They need to be resilient and comfortable moving forward.
  4. Confident Communicators – Fundraisers need to communicate with a lot of different entities, from donors to internal teams. They must be good communicators to be effective in their role. This is one of the essential skills I’ll elaborate on below.

Key Skills

Now, here are some of the key skills you should be looking for that will help you determine if someone who has no fundraising experience would be a good fit for the role.

  1. Problem solving skills – Ask for examples
  2. Above-average writing skills – Both email and letter writing
  3. Communication skills – How clear and concise are they? Do they speak with a presence that makes you want to hear more, or are they hard to understand?
  4. Ability to collaborate and be relational – Ask for examples of how they cultivated relationships with colleagues and clients in their work
  5. Curious – Do they ask good questions in the interview? They need to be curious about people if they’re going to learn their donor’s passions and interests.
  6. Driven to achieve success from their OWN efforts – This is an important distinction. Some people prefer to get results through others, and this makes a great manager. But great fundraisers feel driven to achieve success through their individual efforts.
  7. Persistence – What’s an example of a project or goal they pursued to completion despite obstacles?
  8. Strategic – What’s their process for creating priorities and tracking toward their goals?
  9. Gratitude – When they feel gratitude, how do they say thank you?
  10. Detail-Oriented – What’s their system for staying organized?

Finally, once you have some non-fundraising experienced applicants in for interviews, here are a few questions you will want to ask:

Initial Interview Questions

  1. How do you see your prior experience translating to fundraising?
  2. What do you think the role of a donor plays at a non-profit?
  3. How do you think about the role of fundraising in non-profit work?
  4. How would you approach internal collaboration with other departments?
  5. How would you approach learning more about a donor?

The answer to these questions will give you clear insight on how they view fundraising and its importance to the non-profit sector.

There ARE good people out there who will make excellent frontline fundraisers even though their background does not include non-profit experience. Get creative and look outside the normal channels you’ve used in the past. Once you have candidates, use the suggestions above to help you identify the right fit. Some of the best frontline fundraisers we have helped coach and manage originally came from outside our sector. Be inspired to find them.