Fundraisers Also Make This Job-Seeking Blunder. Don’t Join Them

After my last post on a job-hunting mistake fundraisers should avoid, I thought of another error you need to steer clear of when applying for development positions. 

As with the first blunder, I learned about this second mistake from Ron Schiller, a former fundraiser turned executive recruiter. 

Schiller, who co-founded the Aspen Leadership Group in 2013 after a long fundraising career, told me he discards applicants for fundraising jobs if they portray themselves in cover letters, resumes, and other materials as solely responsible for one or more large donations.  

When a fundraiser uses terms like “I raised,” he told me, “that raises a red flag. I want to see candidates who readily give credit to others and acknowledge fundraising as a team sport.” 

While many fundraisers describe themselves as heroically winning huge contributions, he said, one person is never responsible.

As Schiller knows from long experience, the biggest gifts are prompted by the donor’s exposure to and interactions with multiple people associated with a charitable organization, including its administrative and volunteer leaders, as well as beneficiaries—often over generations.    

While some fundraisers hoard donors because they don’t want to share credit with colleagues for landing a big gift, just the opposite is needed: Expose your donors to as many people and programs in your institution as possible to build your supporters’ interest in and affinity with the cause. Research has found that donors give more when they have multiple contacts with a charity.

There’s another big reason you shouldn’t take all the credit for landing a big contribution in interactions with potential employers, according to my fundraising spies.

Too many charities, even large and sophisticated ones, think they can hire development officers who will assume all responsibility for fundraising, releasing board members and other officials from any obligation to help you raise money. 

So watch out: If your next employer thinks you singlehandedly landed that big donation, you may be left twisting in the wind with no fundraising support in your new job.