7 Tips for Hiring A Top-Notch Nonprofit Development Expert

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While your nonprofit is undoubtedly skilled in many areas, there are almost always going to be challenging obligations that just don’t come as naturally to your team and require extra time and attention.

That’s why no matter how experienced your nonprofit is, hiring a development expert is never a bad move in helping your nonprofit be the best that it can be.

These professionals are there to help your organization get the most out of your donor network to increase your nonprofit’s longevity and impact.

To ensure you find the right development director that meets your nonprofit standards, always consider these best practices in your executive search:

  1. Refining your nonprofit’s development needs.
  2. Hiring a nonprofit executive search firm.
  3. Creating an executive search committee.
  4. Developing branded downloadable resources.
  5. Determining an effective advertising strategy.
  6. Preparing for interviews (both for applicants and employers)
  7. Developing your new development officer’s role.

By hiring the right development professional, your nonprofit will not only overcome intimidating obstacles, but design new roles to lead you in promising directions.

Refine your nonprofit's needs before you start your development director executive search.

1. Refining Your Nonprofit’s Development Needs

Before you embark on the hiring process, you should first analyze your nonprofit’s changing needs in preparation for bringing on a new team hire.

In fact, as your nonprofit faces new risks and rewards over the years, it’s expected that the goals you once started out with have either been surpassed or redirected entirely.

To get your bearings on where your nonprofit stands today, rally your team together for a group brainstorming session on what areas a development officer may be able to help with.

Set aside time to analyze your nonprofit’s new objectives by discussing these key points with your team:

  • What are your immediate and long-term goals?
  • What’s stopping you from accomplishing these objectives?
  • What resources or tools are you lacking in your development?
  • How can you build or reshape roles to initiate new growth?

During this time it’s also important to consider everyone’s perspective from your executive leaders to fundamental staff members — maybe even your donors — to achieve a wide range of input.

Takeaway: Refining (or redefining) your nonprofit’s needs is the first step to achieving new progress with a development officer.

Hiring a nonprofit executive search firm to aid in your development director recruitment.

2. Hiring a Nonprofit Executive Search Firm

Think about it: whenever a company is in need of a strategic adjustment, they bring in a business consultant; so why should it be any different for nonprofits?

There are invaluable benefits to enlisting a professional nonprofit executive search firm, namely to have a fresh pair of eyes analyze the state of your nonprofit and set lucrative roles and programs in motion.

Unlike an in-house consultant, a nonprofit executive search firm will also be unbiased towards your nonprofit and not overlook problems that might otherwise slip through the cracks.

Even though they vary in approach and partiality for nonprofit size, your nonprofit will almost always find these key services at any executive search firm:

  • Executive search and training
  • Fundraising conception and development
  • Donor stewardship
  • Board engagement
  • Marketing and communication
  • Donor research

In addition, location matters for an executive search because someone who’s taking your development director job will need to move to your nonprofit’s area.

An executive search firm can help you organize regional job-hunting materials (like this Toledo executive consulting resource from Aly Sterling Philanthropy) that emphasize the highlights of the location to appeal more to applicants.

For more information on highly-ranked nonprofit executive search firms and services, check out Double the Donation’s definitive guide!

Takeaway: A nonprofit consulting firm will help you identify areas for improvement faster and work with your nonprofit to develop an effective plan of action to resolve them.

Creating an executive search committee for finding your next development professional.3. Creating an Executive Search Committee

One of the most pragmatic services a nonprofit executive search firm can offer is guidance for creating and running a strong search committee.

Nonprofits need sharp and well-rounded search committees to conduct hiring processes for leadership positions like: executive directors, major gift officers, and development directors.

A nonprofit search committee consists of a group of highly qualified individuals with a range of nonprofit experience in order to make informed decisions on weighty subjects.

These committees are especially important for hiring a development officer because this critical new hire will most likely partner with every nonprofit department on their needs and ambitions, from fundraising and marketing to online giving and donor stewardship.

By relying on a nonprofit executive search firm to coordinate a search committee that branches across all your nonprofit’s departments, you can be sure this diverse team will select a development officer they all can envision working with.

Takeaway: By relying on a nonprofit executive search firm to develop a search committee early on, your nonprofit can count on each member’s unique experiences to determine the top candidates for your team.

Develop branded downloadable resources to fully outline your development director's responsibilities.

4. Developing Branded Downloadable Resources

Many executive job applicants will be turned off by a nonprofit job posting that’s not up to professional standards.

That’s why one of the best ways to attract viable candidates is by crafting downloadable resources that clearly define the job posting position, application process, and deadlines.

These resources will give development officer contenders a positive impression of your nonprofit’s presentation by providing specific context for the executive role you’re hiring for, including responsibilities, experience, and benefits.

Downloadable resources are also a great opportunity for job applicants to get a sense of your nonprofit’s personality by exploring a more welcoming and conversational tone than a typical job posting might feature.

In addition, a downloadable resource provides an excellent opportunity to showcase your nonprofit’s branding as well as link to donation pages to give job applicants an idea of your nonprofit’s donation outreach.

An executive search firm can assist your marketing team in shaping these downloadable resources to showcase your nonprofit’s sophistication and outline thorough recruitment expectations.

Takeaway: Your nonprofit can better engage strong development candidates by working with an executive search firm to create a series of informative downloadable resources.

Determine an effective advertising strategy to better target ideal development director candidates.

5. Determining an Effective Advertising Strategy

Even if your nonprofit is passionate about a specific cause or community, sometimes the most difficult part is getting the word out there.

An executive search firm can help your nonprofit recruit a development officer by managing a successful advertising strategy that targets both your on and offline supporters.

Take advantage of top digital advertising methods to promote your new development officer vacancy, including:

  • Social media marketing
  • Weekly email newsletter
  • Shareable digital content (flyers, photos, videos, etc.)
  • Online nonprofit job board postings

Don’t forget to optimize your virtual marketing for a mobile platform to better suit on-the-go job candidates.

In addition, there are a wealth of traditional advertising strategies that a consulting firm can help your nonprofit utilize such as:

  • Print advertisements (press releases, newsletters, brochures, etc.)
  • Donor thank you letters
  • Event fundraisers
  • Fundraising merchandise

Nonprofit fundraising and executive search firms have experience tackling all of these promotional tactics and more which will come in handy for a nonprofit seeking a new development director.

Fundraising consultants are also in the know about the latest online software designed to smoothly integrate your fundraising solutions. Learn more about the top online donation tools for nonprofits with Qgiv’s hottest recommendations!

Takeaway: By partnering with a nonprofit consultant to create a fresh advertising strategy, your nonprofit can zero in on ideal development officer applicants in an efficient fashion.

Prepare for development director interviews both on the applicant and employer's side.

6. Preparing for Interviews (Both for Applicant and Employers)

An invigorating and in-depth interview process can quickly narrow down applicants who are worth your nonprofit’s time and energy.

Fortunately, many nonprofit executive search firms specialize in screening and interview services that tests potential development officers on skills essential to your nonprofit’s growth.

These professionals will work closely with your nonprofit to devise a step-by-step process that that tests your interviewees’ knowledge and enthusiasm for your cause as well as evaluates their background, character, and work ethic.

In addition, these experts can help your nonprofit provide online resources designed to help development director applicants determine the skills and experience you’re looking for as well as what to expect in the interview process.

For example, your nonprofit can develop blog posts on your website detailing some of the questions that might come up in an interview or what standout materials to bring.

This way, your nonprofit can rest easy knowing your tried-and-true interview method will encourage candidates to rise to the challenge of your nonprofit’s standards.

Takeaway: By putting an effective interview process in place, executive search consultants can help your nonprofit make sharp investments in new development staff and leaders.

Tailor your new development director role by working with your new hire.

7. Developing Your New Development Officer’s Role

After you’ve determined your new needs and hired an exceptional development officer to fulfill them, the final step for your nonprofit lies establishing your new hire’s position and training them accordingly.

A good executive search consultant will have started prepping for this critical stage way back in the beginning of your professional relationship.

Ultimately, your new development director should be aware of how their role fits in with the bigger picture of your nonprofit and work with executive leaders to carve in their new place.

A few things to consider when developing this new hire’s role in your nonprofit may be:

  • A written plan of new hire objectives and responsibilities
  • A designated workspace equipped with resources for your new hire
  • Scheduled one-on-one time between your new hire and executives
  • A team of friendly and informative co-workers to help train your new hire

All of these initiatives will help steer your nonprofit’s new hire in the right direction as well as anchor their budding role in your organization.

Takeaway: Executive search consultants will help you design an influential development officer role that will grow with your nonprofit.


It’s impossible for your nonprofit to be perfect in every aspect of your organization, but by hiring a development expert to set new goals in motion and revitalize your team, you’ll get pretty darn close.

FOR MORE ON EXECUTIVE SEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT OFFICERS, CHECK OUT THESE ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

QGiv Online Donation Tools

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