How to Prep for Your Fundraising Interview

tips-software-383x467You already know the basic preparation for your job interview:  examples of successes, how you handle failure and challenging co-workers, and what to say when they ask you about your weaknesses.

But as a fundraiser there is some specific preparation you should do that will set you apart from other applicants and will allow both parties to understand what you could bring to the role.

Read on for some simple homework and get ready to dazzle them with your analytical and creative smarts.

First, before you even start researching the charity’s work, look up each interviewer on LinkedIn. Do they have a fundraising background? Is it similar or different to yours? This can tell you whether you’re being brought in to maintain a set program or to instigate something new. Do you have any mutual connections? If you find out that a friend or colleague worked at the organization, call them to get insider information on workplace culture, leadership and challenges. In the interview, make sure to only bring up connections that are relevant. Bragging or name-dropping might make them question whether you lack discretion.

Next up, start researching the organization by looking up their last three annual reports online. These next points assume that you’re in an interview with someone from the fundraising team, not just an initial screening with human resources staff.

  1. Before the interview, look at their fundraising totals for the last three years and note whether they have gone up, down or stayed flat. Ask them about the results in a non-judgmental way. Example: “I saw in your annual reports that fundraising revenue has been fairly flat over the last three fiscal years. Has it been easy for your organization to maintain funding in this economy?” This should launch a healthy conversation on plans and goals, or at least provide an opportunity to bond over common challenges in the sector.
  2. Ask them how many donors they have in a given year, and what portion are annual, monthly or major gifts. Find out which donor pool they are most interested in growing or protecting and why. Don’t feel compelled to offer a “fix” every time they mention a problem, but be ready with open-ended questions to get as much information as you can. Example: “So you’re looking to grow your number of monthly donors. What would the best case scenario be over the next two years for that portfolio?”
  3. Ask them about their retention rate. (If it’s below 40%, or if they have no idea, there may be trouble.)  In any case, be ready to discuss how you could help increase their success. Every position on a fundraising team can impact retention and your thoughts here will show them that you understand the importance of this critical issue.
  4. Get them to tell you what kinds of donor stewardship they do. Most charities send regular newsletters and have a thank you and recognition program of some kind. If they ask for your ideas, be ready with examples of stewardship that got positive reactions from donors. Be sensitive to the fact that many charities wish they were doing more inventive stewardship, but can’t always justify the resources it takes. Again, this will work for any kind of fundraising role – stewardship should be owned by the whole team.

As someone who has spent a lot of time interviewing fundraisers, I can safely say that few are doing this kind of work beforehand. Candidates definitely stand out from the competition with this little bit of effort. If you have some other successful interview tips to add, please share your comments here.

This article was first published by the awesome peeps at 



About Siobhan Aspinall

About Siobhan Aspinall: I am a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE), passionate about the environment, social causes and surfing. I have been fundraising in Vancouver, Canada for over 20 years and love working with people who have a fear of fundraising. Call me for help developing a first-time fundraising plan, starting up a major gifts program, writing a case for support, or anything else that's keeping you awake at night! Please find me on linkedin and tell me what you'd like to see in future posts! : ) Photo Credit (sanddollar header): Minette Layne via Compfight cc
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