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Development Director Interview Questions

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  1. Many people are daunted by the prospect of fundraising for non-profits. Why do you want to become a development director and focus your career on fundraising? See answer
  2. Your board comes to you with a time-sensitive new project idea but the budget for this year is already strained. What do you do as development director? See answer
  3. Development directors have to approach donors who have previously already donated to the cause to ask for a second or third gift. How would you handle this? See answer
  4. As a development director, you will be the organization’s main point of contact with other community organizations and donors. How would you communicate the uniqueness of our organization’s goals to donors? See answer
  5. What is your process for balancing responsibilities between actively going out to raise funds and managing the donations that have already come in? See answer
  6. In your previous role, which job duties or responsibilities did you excel at? See answer
  7. Tell me about the three most important qualities of successful fundraisers.
  8. What was the largest ask you made of a philanthropist? Was your ask successful?
  9. Do you also donate to causes you care about? What reasons can stop donors from giving to an organization?
  10. In your last job, what was the toughest development decision you had to make?
  11. Tell me about a time you developed an annual fund campaign. What specific steps did you take to ensure it was successful?
  12. Do you have any experience in grant writing? What was the biggest grant you successfully won for your organization?
  13. How many number of employees have you managed?
  14. What strategies will you adopt to help our organization meet its goals if we employ you?
  15. If a colleague disagreed with you regarding how to implement a fundraising campaign, how will you deal with the situation?
  16. Have you ever managed a fundraising initiative that failed? What lessons did you take away from the experience?
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6 Development Director Interview Questions and Answers

Q:

Many people are daunted by the prospect of fundraising for non-profits. Why do you want to become a development director and focus your career on fundraising?

A:

One of the largest obstacles that non-profit organizations need to overcome is the lack of funding, but asking for donations from others, wealthy or not, can often be challenging. Most people who want to work in philanthropy do not come in with the intention of working in a role that requires them to “sell” their projects to others for funding. As such, it is important to understand your development director’s views on fundraising and why they wish to take on the role as a full-time career. What to look for in an answer:

  • Clear explanation for interest in fundraising role
  • Examples of past successes
  • Outgoing personality
Example:

“I am interested in working long-term in a fundraising role because I am passionate about non-profits, and I understand that without the budget to support projects, non-profits cannot create any long-term impact.”

Q:

Your board comes to you with a time-sensitive new project idea but the budget for this year is already strained. What do you do as development director?

A:

Non-profits may choose to fundraise on different timelines every year and sometimes budgets will run tight when a new project or partnership comes in. The organization’s development director will need to have a clear understanding of how to use existing funds effectively and have a contingency plan in place when last-minute, high-priority projects pop up. Your candidate should be able to logically walk you through their process of problem-solving when such a situation arises and show you how they handle unexpected changes. What to look for in answer:

  • Clear plan for resolving situation
  • Calm and level-headed
  • Strong use of logical reasoning in problem-solving
Example:

“I would first analyze the proposed project to see how important it is in the scope of our organization’s strategy. Then, I would see if we can delay any of our current projects before attempting to start another round of fundraising.”

Q:

Development directors have to approach donors who have previously already donated to the cause to ask for a second or third gift. How would you handle this?

A:

Donors may not feel compelled to give follow up gifts after they have made an initial donation but non-profits depend on these funds to continue working on their projects. How your development director approaches past donors and gets them to keep being generous with their money is key to your organization’s survival. You will want to prioritize candidates with a clear sense of how to leverage existing connections in the fundraising process. What to look for in an answer:

  • Strategies for reconnecting with past donors
  • Persuasive demeanor
  • Strong communication skills
Example:

“I would reconnect with our donors by thanking them for their initial contribution and remind them of the reasons why they believe in our cause. Then, I would update them on our work and ask for another donation.”

Q:

As a development director, you will be the organization’s main point of contact with other community organizations and donors. How would you communicate the uniqueness of our organization’s goals to donors?

A:

Many non-profits have similar missions, and individuals who have already contributed funds to one cause may be hesitant to commit to another organization that also works in the same interest area. The candidate should be persuasive and capable of highlighting your organization’s unique strengths to donors to ensure that funds come through. What to look for in answer:

  • Capability for capturing an organization’s special contributions to the field
  • Critical thinking and interpersonal skills
  • High level of knowledge of your organization
Example:

“I would focus on our organization’s grassroots nature and close community connections as an edge that we have over other groups.”

Q:

What is your process for balancing responsibilities between actively going out to raise funds and managing the donations that have already come in?

A:

Your development director will be juggling a multitude of responsibilities between their communications with outside donors, the non-profit’s board members and their own team members. While the fundraising aspect of the job is critical for long-term success, your candidate’s ability to communicate a project’s progress to diverse stakeholders is an essential part of keeping business relationships working smoothly. What to look for in an answer:

  • Examples of juggling multiple responsibilities
  • Plan for balancing the needs of diverse stakeholders
  • Enjoyment for working in a fast-paced environment
Example:

“To balance my administrative and fundraising activities, I make sure that I am in the office at least two workdays a week so that my team can reach me to discuss projects while still spending enough time meeting donors to raise a good budget.”

Q:

In your previous role, which job duties or responsibilities did you excel at?

A:

The development director will be responsible for various duties. This question allows interviewers to know candidates who understand the role and the day-to-day duties of a development director. A skilled candidate's response will emphasize an in-depth understanding of their roles. The candidate's answer should emphasize:

  • Understanding of the job requirements
  • Fundraising experience
  • Teamwork
An answer to this question could look like this:
Example:

"I excel most at balancing the needs of stakeholders and getting donors to give even after donating for the same cause. That last part is hard for many people. What makes it easy for me is that I understand how to key into the passion donors have for donating, and that makes all the difference."

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