People who are part of the Moceanic community tend to find themselves in the driver’s seat when it comes to their career.
It’s great to be able to get a new job.
It’s also scary. Even risky. Because how you spend your career is among the most important decisions you can make.
And let’s be frank: Not all nonprofits are exactly workers’ paradises.
Beyond the due diligence of making sure the position fits your skills and the pay is acceptable, it’s worth asking some questions that will give you a fuller, deeper picture of the place you’re looking into. Here are some questions you can ask during the interview process that can help you make a good decision.
And a very special thanks to members of The Fundraisingology Lab who have shared their questions with me.
How many people have held this position in the last two years?
Nonprofits are notorious for high turnover. And the faster the turnover, the more likely you’re looking at a workplace that doesn’t deserve you.
How do you measure success in this position?
What are they looking for and measuring in the person who will have this job? What are the key performance indicators (KPIs)? How are they measured? A good workplace will not be vague or evasive about this.
What do you do to support professional development?
Is there a budget for training, conferences, and memberships? If there is not, that is an important red flag.
Can I see a copy of your most recent financial statements?
Not the annual financials they’re required to make public — and are usually more than a year old — but current information. If there’s financial trouble, you don’t want to find out after you’ve started the job. And if they refuse to share? That itself is a red flag.
Do your Board members donate?
The amounts are not important. You’re not looking for mega-donations, just participation. Board members who don’t donate can be a sign of disfunction.
Do Board members micromanage?
If they do, it’s a clear sign that they don’t understand what they’re there for. And micromanaging board members are going to make your job miserable.
What are the warts?
Make it clear you know all organizations have warts. You’re less interested in what the specific warts are (unless they’re really terrible), but more interested in openness and honesty.
What are the organization’s values? What do you do to make sure employees represent those values?
Many nonprofits are very public about their values. But not all of them go beyond talking about them. Find out how much they actually care.
What’s your favorite thing about working here?
You’re looking for genuine enthusiasm. Great workplaces often have quirky, hard-to-describe perks.
Whether it succeeded or failed when was the most recent time you pursued a bold new idea as an organization?
Success at innovation is nice but less important than a culture that encourages innovation. A workplace that doesn’t value risk or allows failure is not where you want to be!
Where will I have the final say in my work and what needs approval from a superior?
Make sure you understand the boundaries around your independence. Be on the lookout for a micromanaging boss or a bureaucratic culture.
Most of these questions are not so much about the facts you’ll get by asking them, but about getting insight from the types of answers (or non-answers) you get.
No workplace is perfect; you know that. But some are not worth investing yourself in. You are worth the right job!
Connect with other people like you around the world about what they’ve experienced in the job market. Join the Moceanic free Facebook community, the Smart Fundraisers Forum.
Please share your experience on the job hunt by leaving your reply below. We’d love to learn from your experience.
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Some good questions! obvious ones I forgot was “what sort revenue targets do u have and what’s your expense budget?” !!
Didn’t matter in the end… I knew I could work with them
This is excellent. Thank you
This is a great article – and very timely, as I think there are many fundraisers who may be thinking of finding a new job (or maybe new career!) coming out of the pandemic.
Great advice, Jeff! I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly in nonprofits, and haven’t always been wise enough to dig for honest answers to the questions you outline here. It is SO important. Many of us have a real heart for the “wounded sparrows” among nonprofits (“oh, I am sure I can save them!”) but the fact of the matter is that many of those wounded-sparrow organizations are emotional and financial black holes that can suck the life out of you. It’s wise to be dreadfully realistic when facing a new position.
Thanks for all you do, Jeff, you are a blessing to us all!