Man and woman sitting at a conference room table having a conversation
Graphic that shows three different types of interview questions you should be asking.

Use these questions to identify a candidate’s technical knowledge and abilities

Use these questions to determine how a candidate handled situations in the past

Use these questions to assess a candidate’s personal traits and cognitive skills

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 ask to 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, or delegate the task to a fundraiser.

What to listen for

  • 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 and bigger 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 will 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.
  • Answers should indicate that the candidate doesn’t micromanage.
  • Top answers may mention instances where the candidates mentored team members or gave stretch assignments 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 an opportunity to better the world or contribute to a worthwhile cause to potential benefactors. 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 will interact with donors.
  • An appropriate level of preparation, highlighting their research skills.
  • Strong answers may cite some of the organization’s specific programs and accomplishments.

Why this matters

How a director of development 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.