Talent Tip #62 Take a Chance on Me: Nontraditional Candidates and Fundraising Roles
You know what I have a boatload of?
Complaints about the government, yes. But do you know what else I have oodles of?
As it turns out, I also have a Mayflower truck full of candidates who would love to break into fundraising for the free-market nonprofit sector.
So, what’s the disconnect? It’s that most nonprofits want to hire fundraisers with development experience (for roles beyond entry-level, anyway). Now, before you fault them for thinking this way, understand that many of these groups have tried to hire fundraisers without experience only to get burned.
How can we lower the risk for nonprofits while still being open to nontraditional candidates? Here’s one idea: hire someone with high potential (but without fundraising experience) into a low-risk role for which the individual is qualified and slowly add development responsibilities to the new hire’s portfolio. If the person excels in fundraising, great! Add more responsibilities and eventually transition the employee into fundraising if that makes sense. If it turns out this person isn’t suited for fundraising, you can keep the person in the original role where you can be confident the employee will add value to your organization.
My friend Michelle Easton, president of the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute, shared a beautiful example of this idea in action.
Michelle recently hired a woman into an administrative assistant role who had been an active consumer of CBLPI’s programs and events. She had experience in a previous position researching people’s backgrounds; so, when she volunteered to help perform donor research, Michelle agreed. Not surprisingly, she did a bang-up job. But things didn’t end there. Michelle found that her winning and gracious personality worked wonders on the phone with donors, and her persistence and organizational skills opened the door for several key donor meetings – including one that led to an impressive five-figure gift for the Institute. Michelle has seen so much promise that she sent her to two courses to expand her fundraising knowledge. In fact, she now spends half of her time on development and will soon be moving into fundraising full-time. Needless to say, she turned out to be a great hire all around and a tremendous help in CBLPI’s fundraising effort.
While this is an idea for nonprofits to consider, there is also a lesson here for candidates looking to break into fundraising roles: be willing to take your non-dream job in a great organization if it might open the door to your dream job later.
After all, what you’re asking nonprofits to do is – in the words of Abba – Take a Chance on Me. (Friends, this is what music videos looked like in 1977. We’ve come a long way, haven’t we?)