10 Non-profit Interview Questions and Answers for chiefs of staff

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If you're preparing for chief of staff interviews, see also our comprehensive interview questions and answers for the following chief of staff specializations:

1. Can you tell me about your experience working in non-profit organizations?

During my six years of work in non-profit organizations, I have been fortunate enough to witness just how much can be accomplished by a passionate team with a clear goal. Specifically, I have spent the past three years working as a development officer for a non-profit that specializes in providing educational opportunities to low-income families.

  1. One area in which my experience in non-profit work has really shone through is in grant writing. In particular, I was part of a team that secured a $500,000 grant from a prominent foundation. This grant allowed our organization to expand our reach and provide services to nearly 100% more families than we had been able to serve in the previous year.
  2. Another area in which I have gained a lot of experience is in fundraising. Over the past three years, our team has increased our annual fundraising by 20% each year. We have done this by focusing on building strong relationships with donors, and by making sure that we are communicating our impact in clear and compelling ways.
  3. Finally, I have also gained experience in program development, having been part of a team that developed a new program specifically tailored to the needs of immigrant families. This new program has been incredibly successful, and has received rave reviews from the families we serve.

All in all, my experience working in non-profit organizations has taught me the importance of staying focused on our mission and working collaboratively with others to achieve our goals. I am confident that I can bring this same focus and passion to this position.

2. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing non-profits today?

There are several challenges that non-profit organizations face in today's society. One of the biggest challenges is the struggle to secure adequate funding. In 2022, a survey by the National Council of Nonprofits reported that 80% of non-profit organizations were forced to cancel or reduce programs because of a lack of available funds.

Another significant challenge is attracting and retaining volunteers. According to a report by Independent Sector, 63 million Americans volunteer their time and skills to strong causes every year. However, with a decreasing number of volunteers, it is becoming increasingly difficult for non-profits to attract and retain volunteers. This can lead to overworked and overstretched staff, decreases in productivity, and the potential loss of valuable volunteers in the absence of continued engagement.

Inadequate staffing is another common challenge faced by non-profits, particularly in the current employment climate. The competition for skilled, experienced professionals has never been more intense, particularly given the global shift towards remote work and location independence. Non-profits struggle to attract top-tier employees due to perceived lower wages, strenuous working conditions, and limited employment opportunities, particularly in rural areas.

  1. Lack of Adequate Funding
  2. Attracting and Retaining Volunteers
  3. Inadequate Staffing

3. How do you prioritize and manage competing demands in a non-profit role?

As a non-profit professional, prioritization and managing competing demands is an essential part of my job. To ensure that I am successfully managing multiple tasks, I begin by analyzing and categorizing them based on their urgency and importance.

  1. Urgent and Important: These tasks need to be addressed immediately, and cannot be delayed. For example, addressing a donor concern or fulfilling a grant requirement.
  2. Important but Not Urgent: These tasks are important, but can be scheduled to be completed at a later point in time. For example, conducting program evaluations or creating long-term strategic plans.
  3. Urgent but Not Important: These tasks may require immediate attention, but they do not contribute directly to the mission or goals of the organization. For example, scheduling maintenance for office equipment.
  4. Not Urgent and Not Important: These tasks may not be important nor require immediate attention. I try to delegate or eliminate these tasks to free up my time for other priorities.

Once these categories are established, I use a combination of project management tools and communication with team members to stay on track. I also keep track of my productivity by measuring the number of tasks completed within a given timeframe or my completion rate in comparison to my personal goals.

An example of how I have successfully managed competing demands was during a grant application process. I had to oversee the application process while managing ongoing programs, and handling urgent donor concerns. At that time, I set clear goals and developed a project timeline that included weekly check-ins with team members delegated to the grant application process. I also limited my availability for non-urgent requests and focused on the grant application process during that period, resulting in the successful completion of the grant application and achievement of my other responsibilities.

4. How do you measure the impact of your work in a non-profit organization?

Measuring the impact of our work in a non-profit organization is essential to ensure that we are achieving our objectives and reaching our target audience effectively. Our organization uses various metrics to measure the impact of our work, including:

  1. Data collection: We regularly collect data on the number of people we serve, the demographics of our audience, and the outcomes of our programs. For example, last year, we conducted a fundraising campaign that helped us raise $100,000 to support our cause. With this funding, we were able to provide meals to over 1,500 families in need.

  2. Feedback from beneficiaries: To measure the effectiveness of our programs, we regularly gather feedback from our beneficiaries. We use this feedback to identify areas where we can improve our programs and ensure that our services are meeting the needs of our target audience. For instance, we recently conducted a survey to gather feedback from the people we serve, and over 80% of respondents reported that our programs had helped them improve their quality of life.

  3. Impact assessment: We conduct regular impact assessments to evaluate the effectiveness of our programs. For example, we recently conducted a study to assess the impact of one of our programs designed to reduce food waste in our local community. The study revealed that our program helped reduce food waste by 30% over the past year, which contributed to reducing carbon emissions by 50 tons.

In summary, we use a combination of data collection, feedback from beneficiaries, and impact assessments to measure the impact of our work in a non-profit organization. With this approach, we can ensure that we are meeting our objectives, reaching our target audience effectively, and making a positive impact on the communities we serve.

5. What strategies have you used to build and maintain relationships with stakeholders in a non-profit setting?

At my previous non-profit organization, building and maintaining relationships with stakeholders was a top priority. One strategy that I implemented was to regularly organize stakeholder events, where we invited partners, donors, and volunteers to come together and celebrate our successes.

  1. For example, in 2021, I organized a stakeholder event that resulted in a 15% increase in donations compared to the previous year. We provided an update on the impact of our programs, and our partners were able to see the direct results of their contributions.
  2. I also prioritized regular communication with stakeholders through email newsletters, social media updates, and personalized phone calls. This helped us to establish trust and credibility, keeping them informed and engaged with our organization's mission.
  3. Another approach was to gather feedback and insights from our stakeholders through surveys and in-person meetings. We used this information to improve our programs and services, ensuring that we were meeting the needs of our beneficiaries and providing the best possible experience for our stakeholders.

Through these strategies, I was able to build and maintain strong relationships with our stakeholders, resulting in increased funding, volunteer engagement and a positive impact on the communities we served.

6. How do you ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations in a non-profit organization?

As a non-profit organization, compliance with applicable laws and regulations is critical for maintaining our reputation and ensuring ongoing funding. To ensure compliance, I adopt the following measures:

  1. Stay up-to-date

    • I keep up with changes in laws and regulations that affect non-profits by regularly reading relevant articles and attending seminars and webinars. For instance, I attended a seminar on tax compliance for non-profits last year, and as a result, our organization was able to correctly file for tax exemption, saving us $10,000.

  2. Document compliance

    • I maintain detailed records of our compliance with relevant laws and regulations, such as audit reports, tax filings, and board minutes. By keeping accurate records, we are able to quickly respond to any inquiries or audits and demonstrate our compliance. Last year, one of our major donors requested an audit of our financial records. Thanks to our meticulous documentation, we were able to provide them with all the information they needed in just one day, saving us the time and resources of a prolonged audit process.

  3. Integrate compliance into our operations

    • Compliance is an integral part of everything we do at our organization. Before taking any action or making any decisions, I assess the potential legal and regulatory implications. This approach has helped us avoid costly mistakes and stay in good standing with regulatory bodies. Additionally, we have implemented regular compliance training for all staff members to ensure everyone is aware of their legal obligations. As a result, we have not faced any fines or sanctions related to non-compliance over the past five years.

7. In your opinion, what role do volunteers play in the success of a non-profit organization?

Volunteers are the backbone of any successful non-profit. They play a key role in helping organizations achieve their mission by bringing valuable skills, knowledge and resources. Their contributions go beyond simply fulfilling roles within the organization, as they bring new ideas, networks and perspectives that can benefit the entire organization.

  1. Volunteers enhance program effectiveness

  2. Studies have shown that non-profit organizations that utilize volunteers effectively are more likely to achieve their goals. Volunteers can offer additional expertise and bring new perspectives into project planning and implementation, which ultimately make programs more effective.

  3. Volunteers expand outreach and networks

  4. Volunteers often bring their own networks with them, whether it be through their personal contacts or professional affiliations, which can help to expand the organization’s reach. This expanded network can lead to increased fundraising opportunities and greater community awareness for the non-profit.

  5. Volunteers help keep costs low

  6. By offering their time, skills and resources, volunteers help non-profits keep overhead costs low. This is especially important for non-profits with limited budgets, as lowering costs can help maximize resources and better serve the communities they work with.

  7. Volunteers increase capacity

  8. Volunteers can help to increase the capacity of a non-profit organization by filling gaps or providing additional resources where needed. This can include everything from data entry to event coordination, allowing staff to focus on higher-level tasks.

  9. Volunteers support the community

  10. Many volunteers are drawn to non-profit work because they feel a connection to the communities that are being served. As such, volunteers often go above and beyond what is required of them in order to ensure that the organization is successful.

Overall, volunteers are critical to the success of non-profit organizations. By providing valuable skills, resources and perspectives, volunteers help non-profits achieve their goals and better serve their communities.

8. What are some of the most effective fundraising strategies for non-profits that you have seen or used?

One of the most effective fundraising strategies for non-profits that I have seen is peer-to-peer fundraising. This involves empowering your supporters to create their own fundraising campaigns on behalf of your organization, using their own social networks to solicit donations.

  1. This strategy was implemented by the non-profit organization I was working with, and it was highly successful in raising funds for our programs. In just one month, we were able to raise over $100,000 through peer-to-peer fundraising.
  2. To make this strategy work, we created a user-friendly platform that made it easy for our supporters to create their own fundraising pages and share them on social media. We also provided them with tools and resources to help them promote their campaigns and reach their goals.
  3. In addition, we incentivized our supporters by offering prizes and recognition for top fundraisers. This encouraged healthy competition and motivated people to do their best.

Another effective fundraising strategy is hosting fundraising events. These can include galas, auctions, and other special events that bring people together to support your cause.

  • When I was working with another non-profit, we hosted an annual fundraising gala that was highly successful in raising funds. In just one night, we were able to raise over $50,000.
  • To make this strategy work, we carefully planned out every detail of the event, from the location and the catering to the program and the guest list. We also reached out to local businesses and community leaders to secure sponsorships and donations.
  • Most importantly, we made sure to create a compelling program that highlighted the work of our organization and the impact we were making in the community. We also made a direct ask for donations during the event, which helped us to achieve our fundraising goals.

Overall, I believe that a combination of peer-to-peer fundraising and fundraising events can be highly effective in raising funds for non-profit organizations. By empowering your supporters and bringing people together to support your cause, you can make a real difference in the world.

9. What are your thoughts on cross-functional collaboration within a non-profit organization?

As someone with extensive experience working in non-profit organizations, I strongly believe that cross-functional collaboration is essential for achieving success. When people from different departments and areas work together, they can share their unique perspectives, ideas, and expertise to advance the organization's goals.

  1. For example, in one non-profit I worked for, the development team collaborated closely with the marketing and communications team on an outreach campaign. By combining their efforts and leveraging each other's strengths, they were able to reach a wider audience and raise more funds than either team could have achieved alone.
  2. Another time, cross-functional collaboration led to increased efficiency and cost savings. The finance and operations teams worked together to identify areas where the organization could streamline processes and reduce expenses. As a result, the organization was able to redirect more resources towards its programming and mission.

Cross-functional collaboration also fosters a sense of community within the organization. When people from different areas work together, they get to know each other better and develop a stronger sense of shared purpose. This can lead to improved morale and employee satisfaction.

In conclusion, I believe that cross-functional collaboration is crucial for non-profit organizations to thrive. By working together, teams can achieve better results, increase efficiency, and create a more cohesive organizational culture.

10. How do you approach leadership and team management in a non-profit environment?


  1. Firstly, I believe in leading by example. As the leader of a non-profit team, it’s important to be visible, approachable, and supportive. By demonstrating a positive attitude and a willingness to roll up my sleeves and pitch in when needed, I show my team that I am committed to their success and to achieving the goals of the organization.
  2. Secondly, I believe in giving my team members a sense of ownership and purpose. By clearly defining their roles and responsibilities, and by setting achievable goals and providing regular feedback, I empower my team members to take ownership of their work and to feel invested in the success of our mission. Additionally, I always encourage my team to share their ideas and perspectives, and to contribute their own unique skills and experiences to the team.
  3. Thirdly, I prioritize communication and transparency. I always make sure that my team is up-to-date on all developments and challenges facing the organization, and I empower them to ask questions and express their concerns openly. By maintaining open lines of communication with my team, I help to build trust and foster a sense of inclusivity and collaboration.
  4. Finally, I measure success by tangible results. During my time leading a non-profit team in 2022, my team met or exceeded all of our fundraising and volunteer recruitment targets. We also successfully launched a new program that provided job training and support to disadvantaged youth in our community, which resulted in 75% of participants securing stable, living-wage employment within six months of completing the program.

In summary, my approach to leadership and team management in a non-profit environment is centered on leading by example, empowering team members to take ownership of their work, maintaining open lines of communication, and measuring success by concrete results.


Congratulations on reaching the end of our guide to non-profit interview questions and answers. If you're applying for a non-profit job, the next steps would be to write a compelling cover letter, highlighting your qualifications and passion for the organization. Check out our guide to writing a stand-out cover letter for more tips. Another crucial step is preparing a remarkable CV that showcases your skills and experience in the best possible light. Our resume writing guide for chiefs of staff is an excellent resource to help you craft a winning CV. Finally, if you're on the lookout for a new remote job, be sure to use our website's job board to find remote chief of staff jobs that match your skills and experience. Visit our remote chief of staff job board to start your search. Good luck with your job search!

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