Top 13 Questions a Fundraising Candidate Needs to Be Prepared to Answer in a Job Interview

Share this blog post

These are the questions clients will ask candidates during a job interview and the answers they are looking for:

1. Please describe your experience in fundraising.

What the Client is Looking for: The client wants to hear about your relevant experience in fundraising, including specific campaigns you’ve worked on, techniques you’ve used, and the results you’ve achieved. Highlight any successful fundraising initiatives you’ve led or contributed to and demonstrate your understanding of various fundraising methods such as direct mail, online campaigns, events, and major donor cultivation.

An Example Answer: “Certainly. In my previous role at XYZ Nonprofit, I led a capital campaign to fund a new community center. We employed a multi-channel approach, utilizing direct mail, targeted email campaigns, and hosting fundraising events. Through strategic segmentation and personalized messaging, we engaged donors of all levels. This campaign exceeded its fundraising goal by 25%, raising $2 million in six months. Additionally, I’ve utilized major donor cultivation techniques to secure several six-figure donations, contributing significantly to our annual fundraising targets.”

2. How do you maintain good donor relationships and ensure they stay engaged?

What the Client is Looking for: The client is looking for your strategies to build and maintain relationships with donors. Discuss your methods for personalized communication, expressing gratitude, and keeping donors engaged over time. Emphasize your commitment to donor- centered approaches and your track record of retaining donors through effective stewardship practices. If you have an example of a time you restored a donor relationship following a negative experience they had with the organization or prior employee, now is a good time to share it. Keep it concise. Share the steps you took and how their trust in the organization and giving were restored.

An Example Answer: “My approach to donor stewardship is centered on building authentic relationships. I prioritize personalized communication, sending handwritten thank-you notes and making phone calls to express gratitude. I also ensure donors feel connected to our organization’s mission by providing regular updates on the impact of their contributions. Through these efforts, I’ve consistently maintained a donor retention rate above 80%, exceeding industry benchmarks.”

3. Explain how you would develop a fundraising strategy and allocate resources to ensure it’s successful.

What the Client is Looking for: The client wants to know your strategic thinking and decision-making process. Explain how you assess fundraising opportunities, set goals, and allocate resources accordingly. Highlight your ability to balance short-term needs with long-term sustainability and your experience in analyzing data to inform fundraising strategies.

An Example Answer: “I begin by conducting a thorough analysis of fundraising opportunities, considering factors such as donor demographics, giving trends, and organizational priorities. I then set clear fundraising goals and develop a strategic plan to achieve them. This involves allocating resources based on potential return on investment and balancing short-term fundraising needs with long-term sustainability. Regular monitoring and data analysis allow me to adjust strategies as needed to maximize results.”

4. Share about a time you successfully obtained a significant donation for your organization. What steps did you take that ensured the successful donation?

What the Client is Looking for: The client is seeking insight into the candidate’s ability to effectively secure significant donations for the organization. They want to understand the candidate’s approach to donor engagement, relationship-building, and strategic solicitation.

An Example Answer: “During a recent fundraising campaign, I successfully secured a substantial donation of $100,000 for our organization. To ensure success, I began by thoroughly researching the potential donor to understand their philanthropic interests and capacity to give. I then reached out to them personally, leveraging our existing connections and mutual interests to establish rapport. Once the relationship was established, I presented a compelling case for support tailored to the donor’s interests and our organization’s needs. I highlighted specific programs and initiatives that aligned with their passions and demonstrated the impact their donation could make. I maintained consistent communication with the donor, expressing gratitude for their generosity and providing continual updates on the impact of their gift. This transparent and personalized approach helped to build trust and confidence in our organization. Ultimately, the donor was inspired by our mission and the opportunity to make a significant impact, leading them to generously contribute to our cause. This experience reinforced the importance of relationship-building, strategic solicitation, and effective stewardship in securing major donations.”

5. When looking at the current donor base, what indicators are you looking for to move a donor toward major giving?

What the Client is Looking for: The client wants to gauge the candidate’s ability to strategically evaluate the organization’s current donor base to identify opportunities for growth and increased engagement. They seek insight into the candidate’s analytical skills, understanding of donor segmentation, and ability to leverage data effectively. They want to hear answers that include how you assess new donor pipelines, moves management for mid-level donors, thanking donors, frequency of contact, frequency of giving, etc.

An Example Answer: “To assess and identify the greatest potential within the organization’s current donor base, I would begin by segmenting donors based on various factors such as giving history, frequency of engagement, and capacity to give. Next, I would prioritize donors who have demonstrated a strong affinity for our organization’s mission and shown consistent support over time. These loyal donors are likely to have the greatest potential for increased giving and deeper engagement. Additionally, I would explore opportunities to leverage donor data and predictive analytics to identify donors who may have the capacity to give at higher levels but have not yet been fully engaged. By implementing targeted cultivation strategies tailored to their interests and motivations, we can nurture these relationships and unlock their full potential. Ultimately, by combining data-driven insights with a deep understanding of our donors’ preferences and behaviors, we can effectively identify and prioritize opportunities for maximizing support within our current donor base.”

6. Please give an example of a successful fundraising campaign you’ve managed.

What the Client is Looking for: Provide a detailed example of a fundraising campaign you’ve overseen from start to finish, including the goal, target audience, tactics used, and outcomes achieved. Emphasize any innovative approaches or challenges overcome during the campaign and quantify the results to demonstrate your effectiveness. Be sure to identify if it is an annual or multi-year campaign and how it progressed year after year. This will make a big difference in the figures you share.

An Example Answer: “One notable campaign I managed was our annual giving drive focused on increasing support from young professionals. We implemented a peer-to-peer fundraising approach, leveraging social media platforms to engage this demographic. Through creative storytelling and gamification elements, we saw a 50% increase in donations compared to the previous year, raising over $100,000. This campaign not only exceeded its fundraising goal but also expanded our donor base among young professionals.”

7. How do you stay updated on fundraising trends and best practices?

What the Client is Looking for: Demonstrate your commitment to professional development and continuous learning in the field of fundraising. Discuss specific resources you use to stay informed, such as industry publications, conferences, and networking opportunities. Highlight any recent trends or innovations you’ve implemented in your fundraising work.

An Example Answer: “I prioritize continuous learning by regularly attending fundraising conferences, such as the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) annual conference, and participating in online webinars and workshops. I also subscribe to industry publications like Nonprofit Quarterly and follow thought leaders in fundraising on social media. This allows me to stay informed about emerging trends and innovations in fundraising and adapt our strategies accordingly.”

8. How do you engage with major donors and cultivate relationships with them?

What the Client is Looking for: Showcase your expertise in major donor cultivation and stewardship. Discuss your approach to identifying and researching potential major donors, building rapport, and making personalized cultivation plans. Highlight any successful major donor relationships you’ve developed and maintained, emphasizing the impact of their contributions. Use this opportunity to share a specific example of how you have engaged and cultivated a successful relationship with a major donor.

An Example Answer: “In my role, I’ve developed a personalized approach to major donor cultivation. This involves conducting thorough research to understand donors’ philanthropic interests and preferences. I then tailor communication and engagement opportunities to align with their priorities, whether it’s arranging one-on-one meetings, inviting them to exclusive events, or providing behind-the-scenes access to our programs. Through these efforts, I’ve successfully cultivated strong relationships with major donors, resulting in significant contributions to our organization.”

9. How do you integrate digital fundraising strategies into your overall fundraising plan?

What the Client is Looking for: Illustrate your understanding of the importance of digital fundraising and your proficiency in leveraging digital channels effectively. Discuss your experience with online fundraising platforms, social media campaigns, email marketing, and website optimization. Highlight any successful digital fundraising initiatives you’ve led and their impact on overall fundraising goals.

An Example Answer: “Digital fundraising is a key component of our overall strategy, and I’ve spearheaded initiatives to leverage digital channels effectively. For example, I led the implementation of a peer-to- peer fundraising platform, which empowered supporters to create their own fundraising pages and share them on social media. We also optimized our website for online donations and launched targeted email campaigns to engage donors. These efforts resulted in a 75% increase in online donations year-over-year.”

10. Our target donor is between X and Y years old and is in the A to B income bracket. How would you cultivate a relationship with a potential donor in this category?

What the Client is Looking for: The client wants to hear a tailored approach to engaging with donors within the specified demographic. Your response should demonstrate an understanding of the target audience’s characteristics, preferences, and motivations.

An Example Answer: “I would begin by conducting thorough research to understand the interests, values, and philanthropic priorities of donors within the specified age and income range. Using this information, I would develop personalized communication strategies and engagement tactics that resonate with this demographic. For example, I might leverage social media platforms popular among this age group to share compelling stories and updates about our organization’s impact. Additionally, I would explore opportunities to host events or participate in activities that align with their interests, such as networking receptions, volunteer opportunities, or educational seminars. By demonstrating the value of their support and fostering meaningful connections, I would aim to cultivate long-term relationships built on trust, reciprocity, and shared values.”

11. How do you measure the success of fundraising efforts?

What the Client is Looking for: The client wants to hear about your metrics-driven approach to evaluating fundraising performance. Discuss the key performance indicators (KPIs) you use to assess success, such as donation revenue, donor retention rates, return on investment (ROI), and cost per dollar raised. Highlight your experience in analyzing data to identify trends, track progress, and make informed adjustments to fundraising strategies.

An Example Answer: “Specific to the metrics I prefer to utilize when evaluating fundraising performance, I use a combination of key performance indicators (KPIs) to evaluate fundraising performance. This includes tracking donation revenue, donor retention rates, average gift size, and return on investment (ROI) for each fundraising campaign or initiative. I also analyze data to identify giving trends and patterns allowing me to make data-driven decisions and optimize our fundraising strategies to maximize the results.”

12. Can you discuss a time when you faced challenges in fundraising and how you addressed them?

What the Client is Looking for: Share a specific example of a fundraising challenge you encountered, such as economic downturns, donor fatigue, or unexpected obstacles. Describe the steps you took to overcome the challenge, including strategic adjustments, collaboration with team members, and effective communication with stakeholders. Emphasize the lessons learned and the positive outcomes achieved as a result of your problem-solving skills.

An Example Answer: “In one instance, we encountered donor fatigue during our annual gala event, resulting in lower than expected attendance and donations. To address this challenge, we conducted a post-event survey to gather feedback from donors and identify areas for improvement. For example, we also reached out to those who attended the gala in previous years to learn more about why they did not attend the current gala or donate to the cause this year. Based on the feedback received, we made strategic adjustments to the event format, including adding interactive elements and reducing ticket prices. As a result, attendance and donations increased by 30% the following year, demonstrating the effectiveness of our problem-solving approach.”

13. How do you ensure compliance with fundraising regulations and ethical standards?

What the Client is Looking for: Demonstrate your understanding of fundraising regulations and ethical guidelines, such as data privacy laws, tax regulations, and industry best practices. Discuss your experience in implementing policies and procedures to ensure compliance and mitigate risks. Emphasize your commitment to transparency, integrity, and accountability in all fundraising activities.

An Example Answer: “I take compliance with fundraising regulations and ethical standards very seriously. In my role, I’ve implemented robust policies and procedures to ensure adherence to legal requirements, such as data privacy laws and tax regulations. This includes conducting regular audits of fundraising practices, providing staff training on ethical fundraising practices, and maintaining transparent communication with donors about how their contributions are used. Additionally, I stay informed about changes in regulations and industry best practices through participation in professional associations and ongoing education.”

See more fundraiser career tips here.

*The writers of this document drew from our company experience and also had assistance from of an AI writing tool for suggestions on writing style, wording and some topics.

More to explore

Leadership programs for women are essential to the growth of charities and nonprofits across Canada. Executive-level courses offer a wide variety of opportunities for women. …

Let’s envision a world where businesses are excellent partners in the sustainable development of their market communities. To help them bring real value to the …

There’s an old prayer that asks for the “serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and …