Tips for preparing for an interview for a fundraising job

Congratulations, you’ve secured an interview for your dream fundraising job. Now you need to prepare.

Interviews are funny old things. You want something and so does the interview panel. Your eyes meet across a table, with your professional life up for scrutiny printed on two pieces of A4. You’re often total strangers.

Approached in the right spirit, interviews can be rewarding and enjoyable opportunities. They allow you to think about your skills and experience to date and what it is that you have to offer.

I’ve pulled together some top interview tips to help you prepare.

Interview preparation is key

Sounds obvious doesn’t it? The more you know about the organisation you’re interviewing for, the better. However, more importantly, the more you know about yourself, the better.

Do all the basics:

  • Read the annual report, website, industry press.
  • Review recent social media and recent news for articles they may have featured in, senior appointments etc.
  • What opportunities are available to the organisation now and in the short-term future?
  • Are there challenges they may be facing?

All of this is great, but you also need to spend time preparing yourself:

  • Read through the person specification and think about the key themes likely to arise in the interview.
  • Think about your fundraising achievements, and how they tie in with the requirements of the job.
  • Be on top of your numbers! Fundraisers will be judged on their ability to raise funds.
  • Have questions ready for the panel.

It always looks good to show that you’ve done your research and aren’t going into the interview on a whim!

Research your interview panel

It’s a good idea to see if you can find out anything about the people on the interview panel.

  • Check their LinkedIn profile.
  • Do they have a bio on the organisation’s website?
  • Do you have anything in common that might help to build rapport in the interview panel? This could be anything from attending the same university to speaking French.

Communicating your ‘why’ in an interview

So why this role and why now?

It’s a classic question, and it’s there for a reason. They want to understand your motivations for applying. Why are you sitting in front of them? What is it about this role and the organisation that interests you?

  • Is it the work of the organisation? If so, why?
  • What caught your eye in the job description?
  • Does the role present an opportunity for progression otherwise unavailable in your current post?

The interview format – what you need to know

If the interview is set up by a recruitment agency, they should be able to provide details of the interview format. Otherwise, the HR team should be able to provide information on the structure.

  • Will it be competency-based questions or standard Q&A?
  • Is there a presentation and, if so, what is the format? You might need to bring it on a USB or provide paper copies.
  • Are there any other tasks?
  • What can your recruiter tell you about their style and culture?

The more information you can get on this, the better prepared you’ll be.

Understand the job description

Most good job descriptions will have a job overview.  This is a clear-cut breakdown of the main purpose of the role.

For example:

“The Corporate Fundraising New Business Manager will identify and secure new strategic multi-year corporate partnerships for the charity, with a strong focus on the Financial and Banking sectors”.

This overview shines a light on what they want from the incoming candidate. I’d suggest putting some time into brainstorming around this theme.

  • For this role, what examples do you have of winning new corporate partnerships in the finance and banking sectors? How much were they worth? How did you do it, and what was the impact?
  • If you haven’t made wins specifically in those sectors, do you have previous experience working in these areas earlier in your career?
  • Do you have some good relationships with senior people in banks or finance companies?
  • Have you have worked with companies in a similar kind of area? Insurance or legal, for example?
  • If you haven’t, how could your experiences of new business in other sectors be transferable and meet the nuances of this new sector?

Building a mind map is a really good way of visually doing this. This article from lifehacker gives you a bit more detail on how to do that properly.

Giving examples of experience aligning with the job description

Job descriptions can be daunting at first glance, with so many requirements to understand. Work through them one by one. Give thought to examples you can use, where you evidence what they are looking for.

For example:

“Work with our Prospect Researcher to commission research into Major Donors as needed.”

This is an opportunity for you to think about a time when you’ve built a good relationship with a prospect researcher. How you collaborated with them to work on a project.

You can think about the story from start to finish:

  • What did you need to achieve together?
  • How did you agree to approach the task?
  • Did you face any challenges? If so, how were they tackled?
  • Most importantly, what was the outcome?
  • Were any lessons learnt?

These are questions you can apply to all the points in the key responsibilities and person specification.

Sometimes interviewees can fall into the trap of assuming that the interviewers will know what happened. They won’t, so talk them through the example. The STAR principle will help: https://www.themuse.com/advice/star-interview-method.

Interviewing is a two-way process

A proper interview should allow the opportunity for the candidate to ask questions as well.

This is your opportunity to find out about them. It’s also a chance to impress with some well thought through questions.  It’s not the time to ask: “how long is the lunch break” and “how much holiday do I get”. These might be important, but they are things to cover with with the HR department or your recruiter.

Good interview questions to ask:

  • What is the working culture like?
  • What are the opportunities for career and professional development in the organisation?

Ask more specific questions about the role you’re going for. If it’s a digital fundraising role, you could ask:

  • Have you got any new digital campaigns you are planning on launching?

If it’s a trust fundraising role:

  • How closely does the trust and programmes team work together on proposals?

Relate questions specifically to the fundraising specialism you’re interviewing for.

How to wrap up an interview

Most of the good work is done.

You’ve made it through to the closing few minutes. Ask the panel if there is anything else they’d like to ask or need further clarification. It may prompt a question someone had in the back of their mind. This could be a concern. You now have a chance to address it there and then.

If you feel comfortable doing so and feel it’s appropriate, give a very brief round-up summary:

  • Reiterate your interest in the role.
  • Why you are well qualified and what you’d bring.

Then you can ask about the next steps – is there a next stage and when might you expect to hear from them?

Relax:

Don’t be afraid to be authentic and let your personality come across. But do respect the professional boundaries of the interview. Be professional and friendly. It’s then over to the panel to make the decision.

If you don’t get offered the role, any good recruiter or organisation should be able to provide you with some honest and constructive feedback. This will help you at other interviews.

Lastly, good luck!

About the author:

Samuel Small is our Associate Business Manager, supporting organisations to find brilliant fundraisers and helping people to find their dream fundraising job.