Anyone following the fundraising industry knows that a lack of donor loyalty is at epidemic proportions. The statistics are chilling; only 1 in 4 first-time donors will give again. But there is another statistic that should concern nonprofit leadership equally as much: multiple studies have shown that more than half of higher-level fundraisers leave an organization within two years.
There is no magic formula for hiring a fundraiser that will stick, building deep, long-term relationships with donors and having no agenda other than to help them achieve their philanthropic goals through supporting your cause. But there are several things that can play a role in identifying a fundraiser that has what it takes to become a long-term, valued team member.
First is passion. Yes, you want someone with passion for your mission. But too often, that’s where we stop. “She loves our mission” or “He is committed to our mission” is not a sufficient measure of passion for a fundraiser. He or she must be passionate about other things, as well.
Passion for people (prospects and donors) – A fundraiser who instills in donors a sense of joy in giving. A fundraiser needs to look for exciting things to share with donors for no other reason than he or she wants to share great news with a person who helped make it possible. Sending out email, direct mail and proposals over and over will become mundane unless the fundraiser sees each one as a fresh opportunity to connect with someone and celebrate possibilities together. The fundraiser who is passionate about people will not be ashamed to present a need that he or she is certain the listener will care about.
Passion for continual improvement – Fundraising is always changing, yet much of what fundraisers do is repetitive; the annual renewal appeal early in the year and a year-end appeal at the end of the year, for example. We may submit a grant application for the same project to the same foundation for multiple years. But simply viewing each activity as “same song, next verse” keeps the recipient from sensing renewed excitement each time he or she is approached. Being passionate to do better, to express a need in a way that makes it more real and heartfelt, gives a fundraiser continued excitement about his or her work.
By all means look for passion when hiring a fundraiser. But don’t forget to look past passion for the mission to be sure the candidate has the additional passion that will give him or her stickiness for your organization.