Sunday, May 3, 2009

When Hiring Advancement Staff

What should you look for when hiring advancement professionals? What personal traits or characteristics make some more successful than others? To me there are two that are particularly important -- character and curiosity.

Those possessed of this thing called character will understand and accept the moral weight of their jobs. They will not think of, or describe themselves, as just fund-raisers. They will speak to their ability to build relationships and to do so in a professional and authentic manner. They will speak to the need for personal and professional accountability. They will tell you that they did not see their responsibility coming to an end when a gift agreement was signed; to the contrary they will tell you how they did everything they could to make sure the institution they represented lived up to the promise implicit in that agreement. And long after commitments were made, they will tell you how they maintained communication with donors, how, in their mind, the donor was an investor and, as such, a entitled to know not only the status and impact of their gifts but the status and health of the institution itself.

Those possessed of deep curiosity will learn all they can about the institution they represent. They will profit from training opportunities but will not be limited by the lack of them. They will also seek out their prospects with a keen desire to understand what makes them tick, what their animating passions or pet peeves are, what their deepest held values might be and what their closest relationships are. And their prospects will be immensely complimented by the earnest interest shown in them, by the desire to better know them so as to find the most satisfying outlet for their philanthropy. Indeed, there is a powerful correlation between curiosity and intelligence, at least the kind of intelligence that we want to have in philanthropy. Deep curiosity is reflective of deep capacity to gather, store and recall knowledge and that is of huge importance in the personalization of philanthropy and in maintaining many relationships over time.

Give me these two traits, regardless of experience, and I will be delighted to provide the training or take the risk of promoting them quickly because my career has taught me that they will exceed expectations. They will successfully and sincerely engage significant numbers of prospects and create a stronger sense of community in and around the institution they represent. In subsequent posts, I speak to how we can find these and other important qualities in the hiring process.

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