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Why this matters:

To be successful in this role, your new hire must be able to build and maintain strong relationships. It’s essential for the director of donor relations to familiarize themselves with the existing donor base and look for ways to expand that pool. This typically requires excellent research skills, in addition to the interpersonal skills necessary to establish a rapport with a potential donor.

What to listen for:

  • Specific examples of times the candidate made a successful request of a new donor
  • Details of the research methods they use to locate potential donors
  • A clear and compelling communication style

 

Why this matters:

The director of donor relations typically designs and implements the development department’s strategy, which is critical to the organization’s ability to meet its fundraising goals. That strategy should involve attracting donors to support the mission and making them feel valued. The director of donor relations must also decide when to approach and cultivate donors themselves, and when to delegate the task to a fundraiser.

What to listen for:

  • A proven track record of successfully steering campaigns from start to finish
  • An innovative and creative approach to fundraising
  • The ability to delegate work effectively to fundraisers and other support staff

 

Why this matters:

Fundraising software helps organizations to effectively track, manage, and organize their donor base. It also helps the development department run efficiently, freeing up bandwidth for the director of donor relations to focus on more strategic, big-picture tasks. You can tailor this question to the specific tools your team relies on, though proficiency with any relevant software is beneficial.

What to listen for:

  • Experience working with fundraising software, ideally the platform they will use on the job
  • Tangible ways in which the candidate has used technology to gain insight or achieve a goal
  • A willingness to familiarize themselves with new tools as required

Why this matters:

A big part of the director of donor relations job involves delegating specific fundraising tasks to members of the organization’s board of directors. But since board members are busy people, often sitting on multiple boards at once, they may require a few reminders before they complete their assigned tasks. It’s important for the director of donor relations to follow up, while respecting the board members’ time.

What to listen for:

  • The ability to manage relationships with a diverse array of personalities — and get results
  • An understanding of a board of directors’ role in governing an organization
  • A respectful approach

Why this matters:

Not every event, campaign, or strategy the director of donor relations implements is going to be a success. You need to know that your new hire can learn from these experiences and apply those lessons to streamline their operation — setting the stage for greater success in future initiatives.

What to listen for:

  • Details of how the candidate recovered from the failed initiative gracefully
  • A humble attitude and a willingness to admit mistakes
  • Strong answers that demonstrate how the candidate applied what they learned from the experience to improve subsequent development strategies

Why this matters:

The relationship between the director of donor relations and the organization’s executive director and board of directors is a partnership with specific goals: growing the organization and advancing its mission. The director of donor relations often has to work in tandem with their superiors to achieve those goals, so a diplomatic approach to conflict resolution is essential.

What to listen for:

  • Instances in which the candidate was able to strike an effective compromise with their executive director or board to achieve results
  • A talent for persuasion, with a focus on maintaining relationships
  • Diplomacy and professionalism

Why this matters:

The director of donor relations typically leads a department, but they can’t — and shouldn’t — do everything. An effective leader can keep the department running while entrusting the fundraisers and support staff under them to carry out assigned tasks without excessive oversight. At the same time, they should have a keen eye for identifying tasks that could benefit from their specific touch.

What to listen for:

  • Proven leadership and delegation skills
  • An indication that the candidate doesn’t micromanage
  • Top answers that mention instances when the candidate mentored or gave stretch assignments to team members to help them develop their skills

Why this matters:

The director of donor relations needs to be knowledgeable and passionate about the organization’s mission and vision. They are, in a way, a salesperson selling potential benefactors an opportunity to better the world or contribute to a worthwhile cause. This question also reveals how much research the candidate did on your organization before the interview.

What to listen for:

  • Genuine passion and enthusiasm for the mission — after all, this is a window into how they’ll interact with donors
  • An appropriate level of preparation, highlighting their research skills
  • Strong answers that cite some of the organization’s specific programs and accomplishments

Why this matters:

How a director of donor relations talks to and about their team is a direct reflection of their management style and leadership abilities. Like any good manager, your new hire should set a good example for their people, inspire confidence, and drive them to greater heights. If they’re dismissive of their team’s skills and accomplishments, they may not be a good fit.

What to listen for:

  • Specific examples of management techniques the candidate uses, like recognizing accomplishments
  • Positive language when talking about teams they’ve worked with
  • An emphasis on helping employees develop their skills to become better fundraisers
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