I want to be a fundraiser, but I don't know how...
February 22, 2014 6:13 PM   Subscribe

I want to transition out of the world of marketing into a career in development/nonprofit fundraising. I have dusted off my resume and have started applying for annual fund jobs, and I've scored a phone interview early this upcoming week. Please give me a crash course into the world of development/nonprofit fundraising and help me not screw this up!

The job is for nonprofit that I am already extremely familiar with, so I feel very comfortable with and passionate about the mission of the nonprofit. I am more concerned with feeling confident about the job itself, so that I can confidently tell my interviewer what I know about the job should he ask. The description for the job focused on managing the nonprofit's phone solicitation program, writing communications, maintaining the donor information database, and creating detailed donation reports. In my cover letter, I detailed my experience with Lead Generation phone programs (strategic phone scripting, keep calling motivation high, etc), and writing marketing field communications and reports.

The hiring manager seems to think I am at least qualified enough to give a phone interview to, but I actually know nothing at all about fundraising or development. My concern is that there may be other applicants with much more experience in nonprofit fundraising/development than I have (really just possibly translatable marketing experiences), so it is very important to me that I appear knowledgeable in the interview. I have a handful of days to basically get a crash course on how this field works. I have purchased and read Fundraising as a Career: What Are You Crazy? and that has helped some, but I want to do as much as I can to be prepared. Will past experiences in marketing help me at all in a development role? Is spinning my Marketing Coordinator experiences enough to get me this job? I also have created and leveraged a lot of successful direct mail pieces and I know that some development offices use those to solicit donations - should I bring this knowledge up at all in an interview? I REALLY want this job, but am worried I am woefully underqualified. I know that the only way for me to NOT come off as insecure and anxious about this is to be prepared as possible BEFORE this phone interview, so anything AT ALL that you can throw at me would be incredibly helpful in my research and preparation. Thanks!
posted by SkylitDrawl to Work & Money (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Marketing and direct mail will both be highly transferable skills, especially for this particular position, which sounds like it will be handling annual giving, direct mail, and telefund, not outreach to major donors (which would be a completely different scenario). AFP and CASE are the professional groups for the fundraising trade, and their websites should be able to point you to good resources.

Basically, you'll want to highlight your ability to make a strong case for support. You need to be able to describe your organization, the work they do, and the outcomes that occur in a meaningful way that inspires people to want to give. "Donor-centric" fundraising has been a big thing lately, meaning that you have to figure out a donor's interests, not just give them a list of things you need money for. Asking for a gift has to be personal and relevant for each donor. Marketing is highly translatable here.

They'll likely ask you about strategies for fundraising. Some common ones at the direct mail and annual gift level are referred to as LYBNTs and SYBNTs (pronounced lye-bunts and sy-bunts). These stand for donors who gave Last Year But Not This, or Some Year But Not This. These are typically seen as key groups to target, as you know they're philanthropic and have an interest in your organization, but haven't given yet in the calendar or fiscal year. Most charities do a big mail and call outreach at the end of the calendar year.

Depending on the organization, there are tons of other strategies - grateful patients if you're in healthcare, reunion gifts if you're in higher ed, campaigns, etc. I could go on for awhile, but hope this helps a bit. Feel free to MeMail if you have any questions!
posted by JannaK at 7:03 PM on February 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: What do you have to offer to this nonprofit? What jumps out at me is that you are "extremely familiar" with it. Why? How? That's the most valuable thing you have to offer. And it's not just bullsh*t either. If you believe in this group and what it's doing, you have the single most valuable tool that a fundraiser has. People, both the people you work with and the people you want to get the money out of, respond much more to genuine enthusiasm about the work than to any variation that comes from an attitude of "I'm very skilled at getting money from people."

And: they want the their phone solicitation program managed, you've worked with a phone program. Score another plus!

It doesn't sound like they are looking for a marketing person. Words like "manage" and "maintaining" and "creating detailed reports" sounds like they either are losing a very good detail-oriented person, or (in my experience more likely) have a terrible mess and need someone to straighten things out. You have created and leveraged a direct mail program. Score another plus!

Getting donations is based on enthusiasm. Bring your enthusiasm for this group. Tell them you believe that you will be able to bring many good things: hard work, dedication, ENTHUSIASM. Ask what specific things they want done, what specific things they might like to change. Each time, use some of your background -- even if it's a stretch -- to say how you can do that.

Forget fundraising. Forget marketing. Forget development. If I were hiring, looking for someone to "manage and maintain" donor information programs, and I interviewed someone who was familiar with my organization (PLUS!) and passionate about it (PLUS!) and had done similar work (PLUS!) I'd hire you on the spot. Seriously.

Good luck! And let us know what happens.
posted by kestralwing at 7:05 PM on February 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do you know what software they're using for their database? Familiarity with that would be a big plus. Have they asked about events, donor segmenting, media and social media outreach or it's just donor campaigns and retention? Soffi is a good site, and I would look at network for good's blog for fundraisers (sorry on phone no link) to see recent trends etc.
posted by viggorlijah at 10:28 PM on February 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'm not sure that the phone interview went well, and I am gonna call it a loss and move on. I'll let you guys know if there ends up being a pleasant surprise, but I quite doubt it.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 10:34 AM on February 26, 2014

Best answer: I hope you wind up pleasantly surprised, but if not, every interview just teaches you something to prepare you for the next one. Feel free to reach out via MeMail if you get other interviews or if you have other questions! I could chat about fundraising all day, but most of the people in my life don't want to hear it! :)
posted by JannaK at 5:56 PM on February 27, 2014

Response by poster: Whelp, I guess I'm pleasantly surprised. I now need to prepare for a two hour long face-to-face interview. I feel fairly confident I can rock this one since I am great at face-to-face interviews! Thanks for the help, everyone!
posted by SkylitDrawl at 11:24 AM on February 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Nailed the in person interview.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 12:22 PM on March 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Received an offer and accepted it. Marking resolved.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 6:42 AM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

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