The smart, engaged and so clear Claire Axelrad of @CharityClairity on Twitter and Clairification.com presented at our fundraising career virtual conference in April. Her presentation was surprising and fascinating for so many of us. I’ve talked with people after the conference and some people said her session was their favorite.

If you’re interviewing right now or thinking about interviewing, she’s got some good advice for you.

Claire answered so many questions that people had about fundraising interviews, and interviews in general.

One of the first things she said that blew my mind was that 80% of jobs are not advertised. That means you don’t have a way of finding these jobs, unless you know someone.

So, how do you get to know the right person to get you that next job?

Informational or research interviews, says Claire.  She said, the research interview is a lot easier to get than the job interview, and you’ll both be more relaxed.

She says there are three types of interviews. The research interview, the first interview, and the close the deal interview.



What if they ask you the dreaded question, “Have you managed anyone before?” and you haven’t officially managed anyone?  Claire recommended talking about other situations you’ve managed people in, like the PTA, a board you sit on, or even being a mom.


One of the questions I absolutely hate in fundraising interviews is when they say, “What’s your greatest weakness?” And you have to figure out how to talk about yourself without sounding like a twit. So Claire recommends picking your best weakness. Pick a strength in disguise.

Claire remarked that interviewing is a lot like major gift fundraising. You have to pitch your passionate case for support. She advocated for taking control of the interview process through focusing on the 3-5 points you want to make, and making them over and over again.

interview tips fundraising nonprofit

This surprised me, I had never heard of anyone conducting an interview this way before.

Claire also shared that what interviewers are looking for are:


Ethics as a fundraiser is important. We can share in the interview about the donor bill of rights, and what our definition of ethical fundraising is- you might want to copy the AFP’s definition, or make up your own.

Intelligence- sharing that you’re always reading and learning about fundraising, taking workshops, webinars, and courses, will help the interviewer see that you’re dedicated to learning the craft of fundraising.

Exuberance – letting your natural enthusiasm come through is key!

Inspiration- sharing the last time you got inspired by fundraising can make your interviewer have a positive feeling about you. Your inspiration can be inspiring to them, too.

Organization- they want to see that you’re organized enough to get it done. So sharing how your organized your grant files or a big event can convince them that you’ve got the ability to see a project through.

Her whole presentation was so packed with helpful information. If you missed the fundraising career conference, it’s okay, we’ll be having it again in April 2016.

Here are some more Fundraising/Director specific posts you might be interested in, if you are interviewing right now.

How to interview and find out if your boss will be a bully

10 fundraising interview questions for you

12 more interview questions for your next fundraising job

14 questions for potential executive directors to ask in the interview

If you want 65 more fundraising career resources, just go here.

If you want 99 more nonprofit leadership resources, click on over here.