3 Tips To Find Your First Fundraising Professional - Part 1

Hiring the right talent is always both a journey and an investment. Even more so if your nonprofit organization considers hiring its first fundraising professional. As a nonprofit professional or volunteer leader, the search for a lead fundraising professional can be exciting and daunting.

Exciting because you can already picture the increased fundraising opportunities and the growth potential for your nonprofit organization. Up until now, fundraising was solely spearheaded by the Board and the executive director.


Hiring a development professional, however, is also a daunting endeavor. Bringing a fundraising professional onto your team will make an initial dent in your annual budget, the money you would rather want to spend on your programs. Yet, without a significant investment in this new role, future financial growth will likely be stagnant.


You might have many questions about this new role: What will the fundraising position look like? What responsibilities will the new team member have? What can you expect from the fundraising professional you bring on? What expertise do we need for our first professional fundraiser?


Here are three steps to make hiring your first fundraising professional exciting - and not daunting at all. These three steps will help you establish a search roadmap to hiring for the right position and set your first fundraiser up for success.


Tip #1-Create A Vision For The Fundraising Role

Congratulations. You are investing in this new role. What will it look like? The new fundraising position can take on different forms depending on

  • the size of your nonprofit organization (budget and staff),

  • the maturity of your existing fundraising program,

  • your vision for the new development role and which title will best guarantee the fundraiser’s ability to achieve your goals,

  • the budget for the new position, and

  • your plan for the future day-to-day responsibilities of the person/team who has been leading the daily fundraising efforts in your nonprofit organization (executive director, program staff, volunteer, or consultant).


Case Study#1:

An organization founded six years ago and has seen remarkable growth. The annual organizational budget is at $3 Million. The executive director has built a respected executive team who runs the business and program side efficiently - and effectively and manages staff. For all those start-up years, the executive director has been doing all of the fundraising. She has been leading the day-to-day fundraising and gift solicitation efforts and has relied on external vendors to take on bits and pieces of her fundraising portfolio. Fundraising has been successful but has clearly taken a toll on the executive director.


Options: Hire a C-level fundraising professional who will join the executive team and work in partnership with the executive director, Board, and staff. The senior development professional will be equipped to build on the executive director's past successes and continue to grow its fundraising efforts. The inaugural chief development officer or director of development (title has to reflect other executive team members) will be well-positioned to take fundraising responsibilities of the executive director's shoulders, solicit gifts, guide and coach the executive director in fundraising, create fundraising strategies, and grow the department over time in terms of money raised and staff.


Case Study#2:

An American Friends organization founded twenty years ago and has been run by a full-time executive director and an administrative assistant. The annual fundraised an average of $1,250,000. The executive director has been the go-to person to raise funds in the United States and partner with his colleagues in Paris. The current executive director took over six months ago after the founding executive director retired. The new executive director has a strong fundraising background and is eager to create new fundraising opportunities. Since his primary responsibility is to raise friends and funds in the United States, he is looking to hire a development professional.


Options: The organization has different hiring options for a Development Officer or a Development Director, a Major Gifts Officer or Regional Director, or a fundraising support professional. What the role and responsibilities will look like will be contingent upon the executive director’s strategic fundraising and growth plan, the organization's donor base and geographic representation, the additional expertise needed, and the level of direct solicitation responsibilities.


Tanja Sarett, MA, CFRE, CVF, is a global fundraising consultant, facilitator, and executive coach based in New York / New Jersey. She activates team-centered innovation and creative and synergistic solutions for visionary organizations and philanthropies. Tanja is an onsite and virtual facilitator, trainer and executive coach, an AFP Master Trainer and a 21/64 Multigenerational Giving Advisor. She brings to her work a wide range of collaborative and creative techniques from IDEO Design Thinking, Liberating Structures, the Technology of Participation, and the Agile community.


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