“Tell us about one of your negative qualities.” 🙄

We’ve all been there. Interviews sometimes are great and sometimes they’re a train wreck. Doesn’t matter what side of the table you’re sitting on. When it goes south, it really goes south.

Size Matters

I’ve been asked a lot of ridiculous questions. But three stand out:

How long is your list? This nonprofit wanted to know how many people I had in my personal donor network. When I started the job, they wanted me to fly to the U.S. and hit up donors right away. Their assumption? As a professional fundraiser, I had a Rolodex of people I can just turn to and magically they’d write me a check. Because fundraising is all about relationships, it shouldn’t matter to the donor who I work for. As long as we’re buddies, they’ll give. 

I give this question 🙄 🙄  My answer to the interviewer? My list is non-existent. But if it’s ok, I’ll work here a year, become friends with your donors and then take them with me to my next gig. Would that be alright? 

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We’re Number One!

How would you explain to a donor that we’re the best nonprofit out there for them to support? I’ll never understand this question. This can only get you in trouble. If you ever tried to tell a donor that your charity is the best of ALL the charities out there, the donor would throw you out of their house. Why disparage other charities the donor may be passionate about?!

I give this question 🙄 🙄 🙄  This was one of those make-or-break questions. Instead of giving some generic answer, I went for the gusto.

My reply to the interviewer? I would never do that, because you’re not. You’re not better than a charity assisting kids with cancer, an organization helping people experiencing homelessness, a nonprofit preventing teen suicide. BUT I would explain to a donor why this nonprofit’s work makes it a leader in its niche. Use stories and data to demonstrate bang for the donor buck. That I’d have no problem explaining. 

You Know Nothing

You come from the nonprofit sector. What could you possibly know about the business and hi-tech sector? Sigh. After many years in the nonprofit sector, I decided to branch out and move to the for-profit arena. I anticipated getting this question but was hoping it wouldn’t come up. Double sigh.

I give this question 🙄 🙄 🙄 🙄  My response to the interviewer? I asked him to look around his office. Your company has 4 salespersons, 3 people managing communications and marketing, a CFO who manages the budget, an event planner for conferences and a person in charge of investor relations. Guess what? As a fundraiser, I did ALL of those tasks on my own and my results year over year were better than your combined team of 10! OK, took a certain amount of chutzpa to give that answer but the question annoyed me slightly. 

Now It’s Your Turn 

Those are three that stand out for me. How about you?

I’m compiling a list of the worst interview questions you’ve ever been asked. Leave a comment below or tweet me and let me know. I’ll be updating this post with your responses. 


Nick Savarese, executive director of the Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism, was asked a really really strange question:

Michael Rosen, a fundraising and marketing expert, knew exactly how to answer a question about religion:

Julia, a fundraising manager, was asked a ridiculous question and then told something unbelievably outrageous!

T. Clay Buck, a fundraising, data and storytelling expert, was willing to work the phone book:

Rabbi Yuter had an even MORE uncomfortable experience than just a question:

Reanna, a nonprofit communications expert, had to answer a question related to religion:

The reply from Caroline Danks, a fundraising professional, was perfect!

Victoria Shadle, a nonprofit professional, was asked one of those no-no questions:

According to this tweet from fundraising consultant Cristina Brazao Abal, they go way too far in Latin America!

Fundraising expert Pamela Grow was asked…I’m just stunned:

Richard Freedlund, a fundraising consultant, was asked the tree question. Oy.


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