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When you’re going into a fundraising interview, you might have rosy glasses around this organization.

After all, it’s been a long hard slog to find a job! They actually called you in for an interview! How exciting! It’s the MAGICAL NONPROFIT UNICORN! LOL! OR IS IT?

Sometimes, in interviews, people want you to take the role… so they may not always be truthful.

Here are 5 lies you may be told in the interview- traps to avoid!

1. Everyone here helps fundraise! This is something that is very often not true. If it is, you can ask for further details.

2. The executive director will be your guide! (Will they though? How do they measure the success of this role? What do they want you to achieve in the first 3 months? What are the metrics for the first year that matter to them? What did they make the previous year? Have they ever managed someone in your role before? What kind of support or training are they getting to manage someone like you?) FYI, Here’s why you will be expected to take the fall for the executive director10 ways our nonprofits are not set up for us to succeed

3. Our revenue is rock solid. Ask for details. If they are a school, does tuition cover the budget? What’s their earned income percentage of the budget? What’s their fundraising percentage? How much do they have in reserve? (OK, so how do you know this? If you are in the US, LOOK at their 990 before you get into the interview. See if their budget numbers have fallen off in the last couple of years, and from what categories? Events? Grants? Etc)

4. Emotional labor will be repaid. (What is emotional labor?) OK, they are probably not going to say this in the interview. But what are the things OUTSIDE of your role that you will be expected to do? What sort of “paying your dues” is expected? That usually falls under emotional labor, and typically it is feminized labor and undervalued. (like… calling and checking in with people, like board members or others. Writing thank you notes. organizing office parties. or the refreshments for the staff meeting etc!)

5. We have a strong budget for fundraising. You might ask, how did you decide what was needed in the fundraising budget? Have you run an analysis on what investing 50% more in fundraising would achieve? How often do you increase the fundraising budget? I hate the way no matter how much we hit our goals, the next year they set the goal farther out, often without giving us more resources. It’s called the Hedonic Treadmill. (Here’s the reason behind why this happens.)

 

Questions to avoid these lies RIGHT AWAY:

My friend Natasha told me recently that questions are like knives, or scapels. With them, you can peel away the layers that people put over their thoughts to see what’s really under there. Also, like knives, questions can cut! So, the quality of your questions, the tone and the language really matters. You don’t want to call them a liar to their face. That would be wrong. BUT you do want to make sure that people are in fact telling you the truth. So if they tell you something, ask yourself, “How do I know this is true?” And then ask these questions. 

  • How do you set fundraising goals in this organization?
  • Exactly how do people support fundraising staff (or someone in this role) to succeed?
  • What percentage of the budget is fundraising revenue? What % is earned income?
  • How much would I be expected to raise in my first year? What metrics have been used in previous years, and who controls those metrics? How does the fundraising budget go up when people hit their fundraising goals?
  • What outside the job description would you expect this person to do?
  • This project is interesting to me, so I will take 6 months and achieve THIS. If I do that, then you can pay me X. How does that sound? (This will reveal what they TRULY value, the top metric in a particular task/project, and then you can showcase your skills and achieve by focusing, rather than doing 10 things at once (like MOST fundraising job descriptions)).

Want more fundraising career tips?

You’ve come to the right place. If you’d like to learn EVEN MORE about getting a better fundraising job, or moving on up in your nonprofit career, check out my book, Get the Job! Your Fundraising Career Empowerment Guide.

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