Ron Schiller of Aspen Leadership Group is one of a select few fundraising recruiters who actually has experience in the profession, with three billion-dollar-plus campaigns under his belt.
That’s why I listen to anything he has to say about job hunting—and you should, too, especially if you’re now seeking your next development gig.
Given the rampant turnover in fundraising, chances are high that you’re looking, I regret to say, since high churn among development officers is a huge problem for charities. But I digress.
Many cover letters, Schiller told me, lack a key piece of information: why and how the job applicant is a good fit for the particular organization with the fundraising opening.
The information Schiller is looking for could be a professional or personal linkage between the applicant and the organization. The trouble is, more often than not, that connection is never made.
That doesn’t work for organizations looking for a qualified fundraiser who also has a strong affinity for their cause, whether it be poverty or the performing arts.
“More than half of the cover letters we receive never even mention the potential employer,” Schiller said (amazingly, to me). “Many people are writing one-size-fits-all cover letters.”
“I’ve thought a lot about why this is the case,” he added. “While one can attribute some of the missing information to inexperience in the job market or not knowing how to write a good cover letter, it strikes me that a deeper underlying reason is the huge emphasis on metrics and not enough emphasis on relationships and mission alignment in the fundraising profession as a whole.”
Yet most fundraising veterans would agree that good relationships and mission fit are far more important to a development officer’s success than throwing big numbers around.
So the next time you write a cover letter, be sure to tell the reader why you’re a good fit for that specific organization professionally, personally—or both, if you can make a convincing argument.
You just might get the job.