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5 Interview Secrets to Impactful Nonprofit Hiring

By Joshua Meyer posted 08-21-2023 13:35


Hiring the right nonprofit employee can positively impact your organization for years to come. Unfortunately, the opposite is true when you hire the wrong person. But how can you know for sure that you’re making the right hiring decisions? 

Of course, you can never eliminate all uncertainty from the hiring process. However, the key to increasing the likelihood of bringing on the best new fundraising professionals lies in your interview process. 

Let’s review five impactful tips for holding better nonprofit interviews that lead to successful hiring. These tips help you look beyond just the CVs or resumes to assess candidates on multiple levels and determine who is the best long-term fit. 

1. Include Relevant Stakeholders in the Interview Process

Step one is to determine who will be involved. Choose interview team members that will either work with or manage the new employee. They will have a clear idea of the type of person who would be right for the job. 

Your interview team might consist of your: 

  • Fundraising director
  • Hiring manager or HR representative
  • Current fundraising team members

Not all of these individuals have to be present in the primary interview, but they can play supporting roles throughout the process. 

For example, you might ask current fundraising team members to host “day-in-the-life” conversations with potential new hires to answer questions about the role and assess cultural fit. 

2. Ask the Right Questions

The crux of the interviewing process is the questions you ask candidates. 

Your questions should help you learn more about the potential new hire, understand their background, and determine whether they have the skills and mindset necessary to fulfill the role effectively. 

They should mostly be open-ended questions that give the candidate time to fully communicate their past experiences. 

Here are a few useful questions to ask, directly from a nonprofit recruiter


  • How has your current organization’s fundraising revenue changed under your leadership or involvement?
  • What is your approach to developing and maintaining a strong donor pipeline?
  • Can you tell me about a time when you successfully regained the support of an important lapsed donor? 
  • Can you tell me about a time when you experienced a fundraising or relationship failure or setback? How did you manage the situation?

Fundraising is all about connecting with people, whether staff members, potential donors, current supporters, corporate sponsors, or foundations. These questions will help you determine which candidates not only achieve great fundraising results, but also have the necessary people skills to foster long-lasting supporter relationships. 

3. Align the Conversation With Your Nonprofit’s Current Priorities

Spend some time with your interview team developing questions that align with your organization’s current pain points and priorities. 

Let’s imagine you’re planning to buy new fundraising software in the upcoming year and want to bring someone on board who has experience in this area. In that case, you might ask questions like:

  • Can you tell me about a time when you led your team through a software buying and upgrade process? How did it go and what did you learn from the experience? 
  • Which types of fundraising software do you have experience with?
  • Are you comfortable using AI fundraising tools
  • Which tools have you used in the past to conduct omnichannel marketing?

Tailored questions will help you find the right person for the job and clearly communicate role expectations. 

4. Look for Adaptability

No one has all the skills required to be the world’s most successful fundraiser, and it’s unrealistic to expect to find the perfect candidate for the job. That’s why it’s more important to look for candidates who exhibit flexibility and a willingness to learn. 

In particular, online fundraising skills will become increasingly important as AI fundraising and predictive modeling evolve. It’s crucial to bring on a candidate who can adapt quickly to innovations. 

5. Be Transparent

The interview process isn’t just your time to figure out which candidate is right for the role. It’s also each prospective new employee’s opportunity to assess whether your nonprofit is right for them

Transparency and open communication are essential for the interview process. Speak openly about the role’s challenges and expectations. Provide a salary range and highlight job benefits. 

Let candidates know when they should expect to hear from you about whether they’ll be moving forward in the hiring process or not. 

It can also be thoughtful to provide candidates with feedback after the interview about why you won’t be moving ahead with them. This is a professional courtesy that helps create a positive experience for all candidates. 

With these strategies, you can lead successful interviews that help you find the best candidates for your open positions. 

One last tip—remain open to surprises during the interview process. By staying flexible and keeping an open mind, you may be able to find great candidates who fill the role’s expectations in unconventional ways.