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“Can you bring prospects and donors with you?”

October 4, 2017

“They just don’t understand philanthropy!” a job applicant complained recently after a well-intentioned board member asked during a job interview, “Can you bring prospects and donors with you?” A senior official from a fundraising professional organization recently told me, “you can’t bring prospects and donors with you”; it’s the unwritten Third Rail issue, too controversial for discussion, yet often asked.

The Third Rail Question

“They just don’t understand philanthropy!” a job applicant complained recently after a well-intentioned board member asked during a job interview, “Can you bring prospects and donors with you?”

A senior official from a fundraising professional organization recently told me, “you can’t bring prospects and donors with you”; it’s the unwritten Third Rail issue, too controversial for discussion, yet often asked.

Here’s the rub. Implicit in the misperception that fundraisers can bring donors with them is the belief that most fundraisers have deep, insightful relationships with all of their donors. That’s simply not always the case, since many fundraisers do not meet regularly with major donors. Instead, most of them focus on events, communications research, operations, and administration. As a result, they often don’t know how to ask for a gift. No wonder a finance board member gasped “Most of our fundraisers aren’t fundraisers!” when reviewing the budget of a successful campaign.

I believe much of this misunderstanding begins in good faith as interviewers may be drawing upon their own experiences when posing the “bring your prospects” question. After all it is standard for political fundraisers to be hired because they deliver lists of qualified prospects for their candidates. Donors know that in sales, bonuses are often paid to investment advisors when they bring their “book.”  And even the most generous donors often can’t tell the difference between the jobs of a political fundraiser and a philanthropic fundraiser, much to the charitable fundraisers’ chagrin.

If transferring prospects is prevalent in politics and sales, why not in fundraising?

Most staff in fundraising or advancement offices are (1) not “frontline” and don’t know prospects well enough, or are not trained to ask for a major gift, (2) donors may not be interested in the work of their new organization, (3) the philanthropic case is fundamentally tied to mission therefore not transferable as it might be for a for-profit product or service, and (4) it’s invariably more productive for the fundraiser to pivot and begin developing new prospect pipelines with people already connected to the new mission.

Advice for Employers:

I have found that non-fundraisers who ask the “bring your own prospects” question can embrace a more productive set of questions turning attention to how candidates can create and sustain new constituencies.  In this context, the following questions are helpful.

  • How do you work with volunteers and staff in identifying, cultivating, soliciting, and stewarding donors?” (This question is important because “bring your prospects with you” could imply, “you, the fundraiser, do everything. And I sit back and watch.”
  • “How did you develop and upgrade new donors?” (After all, even if they bring former prospects with them, the list will eventually dry out and they will need to acquire new ones.)
  • “How did you ensure a strong relationship between previous donors and the institution?” (A strong affiliation will increase giving and loyalty.)

And if these more productive questions don’t convince you not to ask the “donor transfer” question, you may consider the question; What will happen when the fundraiser who brought donors with them leaves your institution?

Advice for fundraisers:

In turn, when fundraisers are interviewed by non-fundraisers, they should expect the interviewer to have a different frame of reference than others in the profession.

For those who have never worked as fundraisers, “fundraising” can be a black box, filled with many myths including “fundraisers should bring their own donors.” Other myths I have repeatedly heard include:

  • “Money would come in anyway; why do we need so many fundraisers?”
  • “All we need is one big gift!”
  • “Why not just get a big endowment so we don’t have to raise money?”
  • “Any for-profit sales person could be successful in a nonprofit setting.”

Myth-busting is treacherous when candidates want to align with the interviewer.  What should a candidate do when the “bring your own prospect” request surfaces?

First, don’t argue and don’t dismiss the interviewer for being unethical or uninformed!

Instead, the fundraiser might respond:

  • “Interesting, do you know of comparable situations where fundraisers have brought their own prospects and been successful for a time?” It will be very unlikely, and if so, the organizations probably aren’t comparable.
  • “If, as you say, it has not done before, what conditions are in place to be successful here?” This may prompt the interviewer to realize they need to learn more!
  • “Would you be interested in learning how I have developed and sustained new constituencies before?”—The best question to ask!

In the end, employers and candidates need each other and want to ensure a good match during an interview. Invariably, questions such as “How can we partner together to develop and sustain new constituencies in the future?” will be much more mutually productive than “Can you bring your own prospects?”


Bill Weber, President, Development Guild DDI

 


Bill Weber is President of Development Guild DDI, a consulting firm that has placed hundreds of fundraisers and nonprofit leaders.  Development Guild DDI has been named to Forbes inaugural “America’s Best Executive Search Firms 2017”.

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Development Guild DDI Fall Update just released

September 20, 2017

Accomplishment List™: An Essential Resume Supplement

September 7, 2017

Here’s a tool we created which adds depth and texture to the interview process.

We often ask candidates to write a brief (two to three page) narrative describing four to six examples of major accomplishments. We find that our best candidates relish the Accomplishment List, as the exercise allows them to demonstrate relevant skills and experiences and expand on strategic and creative work they have done, while weaker candidates resist and/or their product reveals their limitations.

It’s an adaptable tool; we specify the request for types of accomplishments appropriate for the position, e.g. board development, community engagement, major solicitation. We generally request this exercise after a candidate has advanced from a first-round interview, and ask for a four to five day turnaround. Of course, due to the nature of the content, confidentiality and use of aliases is emphasized.

Beyond an expansion on their successes, this exercise serves as a wonderful writing sample, and provides insight to the candidate’s strategic mindset in their presentation and choice of accomplishments listed.

Download an example of a Accomplishment List™ request we might send to a candidate as a Microsoft Word Document.

Attachments

It’s sySTEMic…

September 6, 2017

STEM is an interdisciplinary and applied approach to educating students in [S]cience, [T]echnology, [E]ngineering, and [M]athematics. As big advocates for STEM, we love to share stories of our current and former clients putting the practice into action for their own constituents. Check out a few great examples below.

STEM is an interdisciplinary and applied approach to educating students in [S]cience, [T]echnology, [E]ngineering, and [M]athematics. As big advocates for STEM, we love to share stories of our current and former clients putting the practice into action for their own constituents. Here’s a few great examples.


Ioannis Miaoulis

Museum of Science, Boston

U.S. News & World Report recently honored Museum of Science President Ioannis Miaoulis as a STEM Trailblazer. In this article Ioannis shares his vision for the Museum’s future and his deep passion for K-12 engineering education.


National Coast Guard Museum

The US Coast Guard is deeply committed to promoting STEM education through its educational institutions including the National Coast Guard Museum Association. The Museum is partnering with six local universities and the STEM programs at 11 area school districts in the immediate vicinity of the museum including:  USCG Academy, Connecticut College, University of Connecticut, Mitchell College, Three Rivers Community College and University of New Haven. The Museum will soon be breaking ground on a new home. For a peek at what the new building will look like visit their website.


Barnard College - Students in Lab

Barnard College

Barnard’s leadership has a deep commitment to STEM programming, and starting last year all Barnard students are required to complete a course in Technological and Digital Thinking, positioning Barnard as the first among their peers to include technology in its General Education requirement. Learn more about their robust STEM curriculum at Barnard’s website, or read Barnard’s President Sian Beilock’s recent Op-Ed in the Washington Post, titled “How to develop STEM-confident girls at home.”


Simmons College

Simmons College - Student in LabAt Simmons College, instead of lamenting gender disparities in the STEM fields, they are helping to close the gap every day. Through community partnerships, rigorous programs, faculty mentoring and an extensive alumnae/i network, Simmons is inspiring the next generation of scientists, mathematicians, and engineers. Learn more at Simmon’s website.


Miss Hall’s School

Inside the STEAM Academic Building

Earlier this spring Miss Hall’s School opened its new STEAM academic building.  The building, along with revamped curriculum, demonstrates the School’s deep commitment to give girls opportunities in science and math, where women are largely underrepresented.  Christopher M. Himes, Ph.D. Director of Engineering and Technology Innovation at Miss Hall’s School shares the value of STEAM in girls’ education at their website.


St. Mary’s High School

St. Mary’s High School located in Lynn, Massachusetts recently celebrated the groundbreaking of its new STEM building. The School raised more than $14 million to fund this landmark endeavor.  Learn more about St. Mary’s campaign and the STEM Building’s groundbreaking at their website.

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Join Bill Weber for an AFP Featured Session on Successfully Transitioning Between Sectors

August 28, 2017

On Wednesday November 29, Bill Weber will be joined by panelists Lisa Rowan-Gillis, Aisha Francis-Samuels, and Seth Rosenzweig at the 2017 Association of Fundraising Professionals – Massachusetts “Conference on Philanthropy” to discuss key strategies to successfully transition between sectors. Read more about the session and the panelists below.

Bill Weber, President, Development Guild DDI

On Wednesday November 29, Bill Weber will be joined by panelists Lisa Rowan-Gillis, Aisha Francis-Samuels, and Seth Rosenzweig at the 2017 Association of Fundraising Professionals – Massachusetts “Conference on Philanthropy” to discuss key strategies to successfully transition between sectors. Read more about the session and the panelists below:

Featured Session
“Building Your Career by Successfully Transitioning Between Sectors”

While there are many opportunities for advancement in development, hiring managers often gravitate towards those who already have experience within their specific sector whether it be healthcare, education, human services, arts, or the environment. Come hear how our panelists successfully transitioned between sectors to maximize career opportunities and their advice on how to best position yourself to make this transition from their experiences as both candidates and hiring managers. They will also share their thoughts on the similarities and differences between various sectors, and how cross-pollination can be a win for both development professionals and organizations.

About the panelists:

Lisa Rowan-Gillis
Chief Development Officer
United Way of MA Bay and Merrimack Valley
Bio >>

 

 

 

Aisha Francis-Samuels, PhD
Managing Director
Harvard Medical School
Bio >>

 

 

 

Seth Rosenzweig
Executive Director
Team IMPACT, Inc.
Bio >>

 

 

For more information and registration visit AFP – MA website here.

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New Feature: Bill’s Book List Part 1

July 27, 2017

I find sharing book recommendations (without even being asked!) with colleagues, family, and friends irresistible. My Development Guild DDI team has been encouraging me to post my recommendations (perhaps to discourage my constant bibliophile chatter?). My criteria is pretty clear: only nonfiction, I like to reread favorites, and it could be a new book I might take on an upcoming plane ride. Would welcome your thoughts and any suggestions for the next list… So here goes.

Bill Weber

Bill Weber is President of Development Guild DDI. Read his bio here.

I find sharing book recommendations (without even being asked!) with colleagues, family, and friends irresistible.  My Development Guild DDI team has been encouraging me to post my recommendations (perhaps to discourage my constant bibliophile chatter?). My criteria is pretty clear: only nonfiction, I like to reread favorites, and it  could be a new book I might take on an upcoming plane ride.  Would welcome your thoughts and any suggestions for the next list…

So here goes.


Money Ball
Money Ball
By Michael Lewis

The best book about recruiting book ever! It’s all about finding hidden talent (and it’s a fast baseball read too!)

www.amazon.com/Moneyball-Art-Winning-Unfair-Game


Warmth of Other SunsThe Warmth of Other Suns
By Isabelle Wilkerson

Epic story of migration of African Americans from the South between 1915 and 1970.  Great synthesis of social history and biography.

www.amazon.com/Warmth-Other-Suns-Americas-Migration


The Strength of Weak TiesThe Strength of Weak Ties
By Mark Granovetter

A seminal study which invented the field of social network analysis before Mark Zuckerberg was born.

www.goodreads.com/book/show/6186284-the-strength-of-weak-ties


Born a Crime
By Trevor Noah

One man’s coming-of-age story; from the fall of apartheid South African to The Daily Show.

www.amazon.com/Born-Crime-Stories-African-Childhood


Churchill and Orwell
By Thomas Rick

It’s all about a quest for truth. And World War II is about as contemporary as I can tolerate.

www.amazon.com/Churchill-Orwell-Freedom-Thomas-Ricks


Mindset
By Carol Dweck

It turns out what works as effective feedback for parents and teachers also works for employers and been used by the Boston Celtics!

www.amazon.com/Mindset-Psychology-Carol-S-Dweck


The First 90 Days
By Michael Watkins

An indispensable guide for new hires getting a running start—and a must for employers too.

www.amazon.com/First-90-Days-Strategies-Expanded

 


And, I may be sending a new list in several weeks, so if you have new suggestions,  please let me know…

Bill can be reached via email at wweber@developmentguild.com

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Recruiting Fundraisers: Bridging the Human Resources Gap

June 21, 2017

Bill Weber

Read our President Bill Weber's recent article breaking down the barriers between fundraisers and the HR professionals who recruit them. With experience gained during more than 2,500 successful client engagements, Development Guild DDI is a recognized leader in providing executive search services for nonprofit organizations.

Unfortunately, HR professionals and fundraisers are not sure what to expect from each other, thereby limiting their ability to successfully partner. Here’s a scenario that I often hear about:

A Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) director at a nonprofit hospital is asked by the Chief Development Officer (CDO) to recruit two front line fundraisers with 7-15 years’ experience for new positions. The HR professional knows how to create all kinds of systems, from benefits to job classification, but doesn’t know much about fundraisers or fundraising so is depending upon the CDO to assess fundraiser’s skills and experience. While the HR officer often screens inbound applications, she is not prepared to reach out and recruit candidates and would depend on postings and third-party vendors to generate resumes. Moreover, her hiring process, which works well for most open positions, is too slow and inflexible to catch experienced fundraisers who are interviewing elsewhere. She senses there is a lot of competition for “good fundraisers” and is fearful about disappointing the CDO.

Intense competition for a limited pool, complex decision making, and slow hiring processes make this scenario all too familiar to most HR professionals hiring experienced fundraisers, regardless of the size or type of nonprofit. Many of these concerns are found in for-profit recruitment, too (“Slow Motion Hiring.” HR Magazine, June 2016, pp. 84-89).

And from the candidates’ perspective, HR can often be a barrier to connecting with the hiring manager. While HR is concerned with organizational issues such as salary equity, diversity policies, and staff morale, candidates will focus on their own needs, including the best offer for them.

No wonder there is an ongoing tension between HR directors hiring fundraisers and the candidates who want to be hired!

Advice for HR professionals:

Bill Weber

Bill Weber is President of Development Guild DDI. Read his bio here.

Clarifying the criteria:
There are some tricky issues to take into account when you and the hiring manager come to agreement concerning the “must have” versus “preferred” qualifications. Unlike some other professions, fundraising certificates and degrees are not good predictors of success, nor are there any widely used and helpful personality tests.

Also, fundraisers can be delightfully creative in their conversations, so I really stay away from hypothetical questions and simulated “work assignments.” Instead, I strongly prefer behavioral interviewing so that candidates provide you with relevant examples of what they have done (as related to the “must have” and “preferred” qualifications). As a result, you will be indirectly giving the hiring manager the granular information they need to assess the candidates’ relevant skills and experience.

Creating the fundraiser candidate pool:
If you rely on ads, even in targeted local professional outlets, your qualified pool is likely to be relatively weak. Your competitors are already encouraging their fundraising staff to “network even when they don’t have to,” so there’s no time like the present to begin. Employee referral bonuses are becoming more popular and effective as are referrals from volunteers and board members. As with all other outreach, aggressive use of LinkedIn in-mails can be a game changer. And when it’s a major hire, consider the use of a search firm that is set up to find the best talent, who are often not actively looking, and to ensure a fair and credible process.

Move fast:
There’s a lot of competition for the best fundraisers, so administrative application processes that may be effective for other jobs may be too slow. Don’t expect to have a deep pool of candidates trotting along at the same stage during the interview process. Instead, manage the hiring manager’s expectations so they can get the input they need and can make decisions with an accurate picture of the pool. But while you move fast, don’t skip key steps—from referencing to interviews.

Welcome negotiations:
Prepare to negotiate. If fundraisers are any good at their job, they can articulate what it will take for them to be successful and to engage with others to make that happen. This means you will need an informed, trusted relationship with the hiring manager to know where you can concede, offer and adapt. Don’t be surprised if your first salary offer is rejected. Expect questions about work-life balance, performance bonuses, titles, and where they fit in the organization chart. Finally, candidates may save their most important questions for the hiring manager and not you.

Advice for Fundraisers:

Working with HR is not the same every time.

HR professionals may have many different roles. In large institutions, HR generally relies on benefit and job classification specialists and will mandate that HR makes the offer, not the hiring manager. In addition, talent managers are increasingly hired in development shops in recognition that fundraising recruitment requires a special approach. In smaller nonprofits, the HR professional may be responsible for everything from facilities oversight to financial operations. And in both large and small shops, HR may have a key role in retention and liasing with search firms. As a result, expect good faith while testing your assumptions each step of the way.

Follow the volunteer chain of command. If, as a fundraiser, you expect to work closely with volunteers and board members, then it is reasonable to ask if you will meet some during the interview process. Realize that HR professionals rarely involve volunteers in the hiring process, so you may get initial resistance. Usually, the hiring manager and HR professional can find a way to orchestrate volunteer involvement. This usually happens in the finalist round, with everyone acknowledging that the staff are making the hiring decision.

But never lobby volunteers to get hired! The reason is simple: fundraisers need to be trusted, and if you go around the staff chain of command in the hiring process, that suggests you may not follow the chain of command if hired. Fundraisers may be the only staff with access to their bosses on the board. But there is still an opportunity to take advantage of this relationship. If you do contact volunteers early on, that demonstrates good research and relationship building—simply let HR know whom you talked to and when.

Make it easy. Remember, HR professionals are swamped with too much work and need to rely on the hiring manager to dig deep about relevant skills and experience. As a result, HR may revert to the standard hiring procedures which they know best. Consequently, all the job seeking advice you heard elsewhere applies doubly here: write a well-crafted cover letter; arrive on time for the interview; dress appropriately; rehearse good eye contact, etc. And most importantly, don’t surprise HR with last minute disclosure of information or introduce requests that could have been made earlier. Under pressure, HR may use any of these demerits to not advance you to the hiring manager.

A Final Comment:

Despite their role conflict, I truly believe that HR professional and fundraisers share a lot in common.

Sometimes I have mused that an experienced fundraiser I have met could have been a great HR professional if they had pursued that field earlier in their career. And I had the same thought for HR professionals becoming fundraisers. After all, they both need great relationships skills, can navigate complex environments and systems, and are mission driven. But tension between their roles grows by the time they have advanced in their careers – so try to relax, folks! You’re natural partners in the process!

Bill Weber is President of Development Guild DDI, a fundraising and executive search consulting firm that has placed hundreds of fundraisers and nonprofit leaders.  Development Guild DDI has been named to Forbes inaugural “America’s Best Executive Search Firms 2017”.

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Our Higher Ed Clients Feature an Inspiring Group of Commencement Speakers

June 16, 2017

We’re proud to be partnered with visionary leaders and institutions. We’ve compiled a list of commencement speeches from some of our clients which demonstrate their commitment to our young people and a brighter future. Click below for links to videos of their commencement speeches.

We’re proud to be partnered with visionary leaders and institutions.  We’ve compiled a list of commencement speeches from some of our clients which demonstrate their commitment to our young people and a brighter future.  Click below to watch videos of selected speeches.

Barnard College, Dr. Joanne Liu


Bennington College, Cornell William Brooks


Regis College, Dr. Knatokie Ford


Simmons College, Gina McCarthy


UMass Amherst, Elizabeth Warren

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Development Guild DDI Named to Forbes “America’s Best Executive Search Firms 2017” List

June 5, 2017

Development Guild DDI has been named to Forbes inaugural “America’s Best Executive Search Firms 2017“. The ranking is based on the results from a rigorous independent peer review survey of more than 4,000 executive recruiters, candidates who have worked with recruiters, and human resource managers. Forbes worked with the analytics firm Statista to compile the rankings from the over 20,000 recommendations collected.

“We are very pleased to be ranked in the top 100 firms selected” said Development Guild DDI President Bill Weber. “Our team is proud of the 450 searches we have conducted on behalf of a diverse range of nonprofit organizations. Each day we are reminded of the extraordinary contributions our clients make to our communities, across our country, and around the world.”

About Development Guild DDI

Since 1978, Development Guild DDI have been aligning leadership around a strategic vision with  planning, executive search, and fundraising services. With offices in Boston and New York and working with clients nationwide, we partner with leaders in academic medicine, higher education, arts and culture, human service, and other nonprofits in delivering on their most important goals.

Learn more at www.developmentguild.com

Contact:
Susan Bragg Meurer
Senior Vice President
800.537.9011 extension 225
sbragg@developmentguild.com

Bill Weber provides advice in a recent Chronicle of Philanthropy article

May 5, 2017

Timothy Sandoval recently published an article titled “Advice for Aspiring Major-Gifts Fundraisers” in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and the piece focuses on the characteristics of successful major gift professionals. Introducing the career path as one with unusual emphasis on relationship building and versatility, Sandoval breaks down advice from contributing experts into 5 steps for professionals interested in pursuing a major gifts track.

He begins by stressing the importance of honestly evaluating your suitability for an overwhelmingly interpersonal role. The article moves on to explain the value of finding effective mentorship in the field and identifying opportunities to take initiative while maintaining sensitivity and deference for coworkers’ relationships and portfolios. Sandoval wraps up the piece pointing out the learnability of many traits that make major gifts officers successful, such as listening skills and humility. Closing with a quote from Bill Weber, Sandoval reinforces the importance of qualifying not only your suitability for the career track, but your prospective organization’s health and purpose – “If you don’t connect to the mission, why do it?”

Read the article on the Chronicle of Philanthropy website with subscription.

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