If you want to be a development director but don’t know how to get started, this is the right place. Working with a Non-profit organization and helping them realize their noble goals is a wonderful career choice indeed. However, like in every other job interview, your skills and qualifications will be tested at an interview for the role of a development director at an organization. And not having a clue about what to expect before walking into an interview can feel quite stressful. This is why we are here to help you out. Here in this article, we will look at some of the broad questions that are usually asked at a fundraising interview and ideal ways to answer them. We believe that by the time you reach the end of this article, you can easily ace that interview.
The general responsibilities of a development director include organizing and conducting events and campaigns to raise money through donations from various sectors in various forms for an organization. They are responsible for the overall development and growth of an organization. Usually, non-profit organizations hire development directors to help them raise funds for their work. They also act as the face of the organization to prospective donors. A competent development director is expected to possess excellent communication skills. They should be good at organization and have effective people skills as well. They should also understand the importance of paying attention to detail as part of their professional skills. They have to work with large amounts of data while simultaneously adhering to the law and additional rules and regulations. Sometimes, organizations want to hire individuals who already have some experience in their line of work. These individuals are expected to have good connections with potential donors, who can be counted upon for funds. Therefore, an interview for fundraising would be aimed at assessing these areas of the candidate, including their personal charisma and overall personality. The following are some broad questions that can be asked at an interview for the role of a development director, along with detailed ways of answering them. Let us check them out:
Why do you want to work for our organization?
Every organization wants to hire professionals who are competent at their job and motivated to some degree to be loyal to that organization. The purpose of this question is to see whether the candidate is diligent enough to have done their research before showing up for the interview. A good candidate will already know enough about the organization to list some basic reasons they wish to work. We recommend going through the organization’s website at least once to understand its vision and goals. Then, the candidate can talk about what they like about the organization, such as their goals or the areas they work in, etc. A candidate who finds the message of the organization motivating will be able to communicate it to prospective donors better, thus increasing their chances of success.
How would you look for potential donors and create lasting relationships with them?
An integral part of the job of a development director is to constantly lookout for potential donors and reach out to them for donations. Simultaneously, they must also keep these donors in the bag by building strong and lasting relationships between them and the organization. A good way for the candidate to answer this question is to talk about the approach they will take while looking for and locking down on a donor, such as familiarizing themselves with the surrounding community, researching individuals and organizations that seem like prospective donors, and reaching out to them in the spirit of mutual respect so that they feel valued. The candidate should also give some specific examples of their methods, such as going through annual reports from similar organizations and utilizing existing donor networks. They can also mention some previous instances where they effectively reached out to and connected with a donor. The interviewer will be looking for good communication and interpersonal skills on the candidate’s part.
Given that most people are daunted by the prospect of fundraising for non-profits, what attracted you to this career?
Working for a non-profit is not the same as working at a corporate job. Most people who work in philanthropy do not initially expect to serve as ‘salesmen’ trying to sell something, but that is what the job can eventually feel like. One of the biggest issues that non-profits have to overcome is the lack of funding, and development directors are therefore under constant pressure to deliver. They have to consistently ask wealthy donors for gifts, sometimes more than once. The interviewer will be looking for an overall outgoing personality and a proper understanding of the role of a development director from the candidate. The candidate may also talk about their past successes in fundraising to convince the interviewer of their abilities.
How would you organize a good fundraising event?
The interviewer needs to understand how the candidate thinks to judge whether they will fit their organization. Charitable events are organized by for-profit and non-profit organizations, and they play a huge role in generating funds. The candidate would do well to talk about any prior experience they have in organizing charity events and outline how they like to go about managing budgets, recruiting keynote speakers, organizing dinners, etc. The candidate should display a comprehensive understanding of the resources involved in organizing large-scale charity events, along with all the necessary steps involved right from the beginning. Also, the candidate should align their answer with the values and needs of the organization they are interviewing to show that they have done their research.
Tell us about a time when you managed to convince a reluctant donor.
Of course, persuading donors is all in a day’s work for a development director. Therefore the interviewer needs to see that the candidate before them has the communication and persuasion skills they will need. A good way to display competence at persuasion is to talk about previous instances when the candidate successfully won over an initially reticent donor. This will show the interviewer that the candidate knows how to get the job done and can handle their business well if hired. Apart from that, the candidate can talk about some general tactics they like to apply to convince a donor of the organization’s vision and their effectiveness in working in an area that needs attention. They need to show that they can make the donor feel valued and know when to give up and move on to the next target so as not to waste precious time.
Tell us about the most recent fundraising event or campaign you organized and the results it achieved.
Competence is judged by results everywhere, be it in corporate firms or charity organizations. So, the interviewer would like to know how successful the candidate has been lately at their job. A candidate may be very well-spoken and have excellent skills, but they are practically useless if they cannot deliver results. The candidate should briefly outline the strategy followed for the last campaign or event they organized and then mention the role they played in it and the results they achieved. Success will be looked upon favorably. However, if the campaign failed to bring in as many donations as it targeted, then the candidate should list a few reasons as to why it happened. This will show that the candidate spent some time reflecting after their failure and that they have a general interest in learning from their mistakes.
Tell us about a time when you displayed good leadership skills.
Development directors are not always working alone. They have teams of volunteers working under them, assisting in building campaigns and organizing events. This is why they must have good leadership skills. A candidate must display the ability to work with a group of people and give them direction whenever necessary to get hired. The interviewer will want to see that the candidate values teamwork and a collaborative approach while solving problems. They will be able to take charge of a situation and accept responsibility for their actions. If the candidate does not have much experience as a development director, they can answer this question by drawing examples from their school or college life when they showed proper leadership skills.
How do you keep yourself organized?
Development directors have to work with a tremendous amount of information, such as names and contact information of donors, along with the funds contributed by them during a specific event or a campaign. They need to be accurate with their data and are held accountable if any of the data doesn’t add up. They need to have a keen eye for detail and be highly organized about their work. Loss of vital data can mean slowing down of progress and loss of reputation of the organization. They also have to juggle multiple responsibilities simultaneously, such as fundraising and communicating with outside donors. The candidate should talk about specific tracking methods and organizing donor information, such as using spreadsheets and separate databases. They should understand the importance of safeguarding sensitive data and show that they understand the importance of being organized in their work.
What would you do if your board came to you with a time-sensitive new project at a time when the annual budget was already strained?
It is common for non-profits to run on tight budgets as they are constantly engaged in fundraising projects throughout the year. Therefore, the organization’s development director needs to utilize existing funds to accommodate promising new projects and have an effective contingency plan for any last-minute, high-priority project. Therefore, the candidate needs to walk the interviewer through the approach rationally they will adopt when faced with high-pressure situations while displaying the ability to think clearly in stressful scenarios. In addition, the interviewer would like to see that the candidate possesses robust logical reasoning skills and an understanding of the importance of being organized in their approach to solving problems.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
This is a very common interview question and is asked to gauge a candidate’s ambition. Organizations like to hire candidates who are focused on their career goals. However, someone who doesn’t know what they want in the future can come off as lethargic and unmotivated and therefore incapable of pushing the organization towards its vision. A good way to answer this question is for the candidate to say that they would like to take on further responsibilities while working in the organization to build their career and move ahead. This will show the interviewer that the candidate can be trusted with the organization’s needs and take the initiative on their own to further their goals.
Being a development director means constantly talking to people and asking them for money. They are busy individuals, loaded with a lot of work most of the time. If you are not comfortable with that, then this is not the profession for you. However, if you enjoy putting your communication and interpersonal skills to the test to pursue a noble vision with a non-profit organization, then you should definitely go for it. After all, organizing events and campaigns can be fun if done with the right people and for the right cause. Now that you know what to expect in an interview for the role of a development director, we are sure that you can bag that job you want easily.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How do I dress for the interview?
A professional appearance conveys that you take the job seriously enough to put some effort into your appearance for the interview. Therefore, dress professionally to impress the interviewer.
- What college degree do I need to become a development director?
A background in accounting and finances is definitely helpful in a job as a development director. Other than that, a management degree will also be looked upon favorably.