major gift officerIf you’re doing things right in your nonprofit fundraising program, it should cost you about $0.10 to raise $1.00 with a major gift program. By comparison, events can cost you as much as $0.30 to $0.40.

Savvy nonprofits understand this and that’s why many have a solid major donor program. If you’re looking to hire a major gift officer, there are a number of questions you should ask so you get someone who can perform. The best major gift officers are paid well for their work. There’s a reason for that. It’s because they can exponentially grow the budgets of their charities, but they have to be excellent at what they do, and they have to like it.

Major gift officers are unlike a lot of your other fundraisers. They have to be extroverts and people who generally enjoy people. They have to be exceptional communicators. They have to be able to tell the collective story of your nonprofit. They have to be persistent but also have tact on how to overcome any donor objections they may encounter. Most importantly, they have to be confident and comfortable making an ask.

When interviewing, here are questions you might want to make sure you get answered in a thoughtful and detailed way by the candidates.

  1. What is your experience doing major gift fundraising?

What you’re looking for is concrete experience working exclusively with major gift prospects and donors. You’re looking to understand how many years your major gift candidates worked with major donors. Have they carried a portfolio of prospects? How many prospects and major donors have they worked with at any given time?

Someone might have great experience working as a grant writer or in events, but major gift fundraising is a whole other ballgame.

  1. What are the largest 3 gifts you raised as a major gift officer and explain your process in securing the gift for each?

Depending on what you consider a major gift to be for your nonprofit, you want to know whether or not your candidates can rise to the occasion. If you’re looking for your major gift officer to secure gifts of $250,000, you don’t want someone whose highest gift amount was $1,000. This question will help you understand the level of their fundraising experience with regard to major gift asks.

In addition, by asking them to go through each of the processes with you, you will get a handle as to how they work with prospects. You will learn if your candidates have an understanding of the research, qualification, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship processes.

  1. What is your worst experience working with a major gift prospect?

The reason you want to ask this question is because you want to know how they deal with challenges. You want to understand their thought process. When they were dealing with a difficult donor or prospect, did they stay positive? In telling their story, does it sound as if they are throwing their teammates, or perhaps their managers under the bus?

This is a good question which will help you ascertain their attitude to their work, their colleagues and difficult people they may have to work with down the line. You’ll also be able to find out if the person learned anything, or thought they learned something, from the experience.

I’ve seen it often. People hire a major gift officer on a gut or simply by the fact that the candidate has been excellent in another position. Hiring a major gift officer is a task that should be made thoughtfully, with a lot of due diligence and time. You’re looking to hire one of the most important people on your fundraising team.


Author of “Not Your Father’s Charity: Grip & Rip Leadership for Social Impact” (Free Digital Download)

© 2016 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father’s Charity. All Rights Reserved.