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Favorite Questions to Ask When Interviewing for a Fundraising Role

By Ashley Gatewood posted 02-14-2022 09:28

Picture it—you’re at that stage of interviewing for a fundraising job when the person on the other side of the table asks, “So, what questions do you have for me?”

This is an unmissable opportunity for you to pose those questions that will help you make an informed decision on whether or not the organization is a match with your needs and values. We asked CFRE certificants around the world to share what their favorite questions are to pose when interviewing for a new fundraising job.

Read on to find out what your peers ask.
Two women interviewing via Zoom

Jennifer Atkinson, CFRE
New Westminster, BC
I would recommend to someone interviewing for a new position to ask, “Aside from exceeding the revenue target, what do you feel success looks like in this role?”

As a fund development professional, our primary goal is to develop philanthropic partnerships that further the mission of the organization that we represent, but an answer to this question can provide a lot of additional insights for a candidate.

For example, it might give you a sense of what framework is in place to support the work in this role—are you building from scratch, or is there a strategy in place? Or, it might shed light on some of the challenges and opportunities unique to this organization. Finally, an answer to this question could also help you to determine if the role is a good match for your skills and experience—beyond what’s written in the job description.

Lee Christian, CFRE
I always ask, “How flexible are you for the right candidate?” because I know there are things I bring to the table that are not required in the job description–and also areas where I fall short.

For COVID times, I ask this question in relation to how frequently they need to see me in the office in-person because right now I am working almost entirely remotely. That is a big-ticket item for me. I am also very clear on my strengths and weaknesses. I make sure I offer a very plausible equal list of plus and minus points about myself.

My key point is to always be honest. Lying or saying you’ve got skills you don’t have, to get a job, isn’t helpful to anyone.

James Dyer, CFRE
“How embedded is the fundraising culture/need for fundraising amongst the wider staff/volunteer body?”

“Talk me through the last successful campaign. What was the biggest challenge?”

Tomáš Kelley, CFRE
Slovak Republic
I go with a question related to the team—what is the team composition and team spirit/culture? Is it collaborative?

In my experience successful fundraising has extremely cross-departmental and cross-regional dependencies that require effective collaboration. Fundraising success heavily depends on others—be it within the fundraising department, but even more so outside. Leadership needs to create appropriate policies and procedures, the programs need to be meaningful and sophisticated, communications need to build visibility and brand, finance needs to be processing payments appropriately, etc.

If interviewing for a job at an NGO that faced major criticism recently, I'd want to know how the leadership dealt with the controversy and what precautions have been put in place to prevent it happening again.

Cherian Koshy, CFRE
Des Moines, IA
United States
I think the, "What questions do you have for me?" is the least utilized and most important feature of the interview. For a lot of fundraisers, our perspective is marketing ourselves to a future employer.

However, after getting the CFRE, I've viewed the interview from the perspective of whether this is an organization that I'd be able to thrive in—does it leverage my gifts, skills, and learning? Does this organization truly hold space for fundraising at the leadership table? How are budgets developed, including fundraising goals and investments? Most importantly, does the organization have a culture of philanthropy?

Unless my leader is also a CFRE, I would certainly ask about approvals for fundraising materials like appeals. If it goes through a board/committee or leadership that doesn't have specific understanding of the fundraising body of knowledge, that's a huge red flag for me.

Monica Manzanilla, CFRE
My focus is on major gifts, so I like to ask:
  • How strong is your major gift program?
  • Of total donations, what percentage is from major gifs?
  • How often do board members get involved with fundraising and working with staff?
  • How many donors is every major gift officer responsible for in their caseload?
  • How do fundraising staff work with operations and finance to report impact to donors?
  • How do you evaluate a fundraising executive’s performance?

Judy Zhu, MBA, CFRE
Vancouver, BC
It is very important to ask questions at the end of your interview to make a lasting impression, just like tying a pretty bow on your gift. My favourite question for a fundraising position is, “From a donor perspective, what do you think are the most important qualities for someone to excel in this job?"