No, Thanks; You’re Overqualified

It’s a reflection of the times. Unemployment in the United States is currently double what it was five years ago, and unemployment in Canada is also on the rise. In such a tough environment, job-seekers just want to work, and they are grateful for a chance to get back into the ranks of the employed, even if it means they are over-qualified for the positions available to them.

As an employer, you may be reticent about hiring a fundraiser who is too senior for the job you have available. Will the overqualified candidate handle the job differently from his predecessor? Will she get bored and want more responsibility? Will he challenge the status quo?

But there is another side to the argument. Hiring over-qualified fundraisers also means hiring people who bypass the learning curve, contribute beyond the job description from Day 1, and bring experienced perspectives to the complex world of fundraising. Whether these new staff members perform in these very desirable ways, though, is as much a product of how they are managed as how they motivate themselves. Employers who are stimulated by the prospect of hiring overqualified staff create challenging and flexible work environments where creativity thrives. Under their progressive leadership, taking smart risks is rewarded and thinking differently is expected. As a result these bold and confident leaders keep their staff longer and raise more money.

The Value-Added of Over-Qualified Staff

The last time the economy faltered, many Development Directors were faced with the prospect of reducing staff. Among them was a colleague of mine who heads the Development Office of a prominent healthcare institution. Not wanting to lose her highly skilled fundraisers and, along with them, the investment she had made in their training and supervision, my colleague offered an alternative proposal to those targeted for layoff. Four major gifts officers and prospect research associates could stay on full time if they agreed to spend part of their day doing basic donor data support.

So, these highly experienced fundraisers went to work part-time in data input in order to save their jobs. It wasn’t long before one of them asked for a meeting with the Development Director. “I’m seeing something interesting,” she said. “There is a large group of donors who gives modestly but regularly. They are not being stewarded because each gift averages less than twenty dollars. But they give from five to ten times a year. I think someone should be talking with them as they seem to be signaling interest in a closer relationship.”

She was right. The group of donors making small but frequent gifts was targeted for special stewardship. Many became major donors; many more joined the monthly giving program. Revenue from these donors soared thanks to an employee who brought all her skill and experience plus her fresh perspective to a job for which she was substantially overqualified.



Leveraging talent at all levels of ¬†fundraising in order to raise more money is one of many issues that Penelope addresses in her book, Donor-Centered Leadership…How to build and sustain a high performance fundraising team.

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