Is it time to start recruiting fundraisers from outside of the sector?
Well, it’s a little bit of an inflammatory article title, but there’s a deep vein of truth in it.
Fundraisers are becoming harder to recruit, especially for the more specialised roles. It may be easier to find street or telephone fundraisers but is that an approach that should still be taking place?
Is it even worth doing?
Without calling anyone out, it’s pretty easy to see that charities make high demands of their fundraisers. And rightfully so! They are the backbone of the organisation, often the entire source of income, and may hold the fate of the charities’ existence in their hands. But, perhaps recruiters are looking in the wrong places, the person they’re looking for might not exist, the requisite “charity sector experience” is vague and undefined.
Still, through whatever medium they choose, be it job board, Linkedin, or even word of mouth, charities are finding it hard to recruit good fundraisers with the required experience. Perhaps, charity sector, fundraising managers, the time has come to consider the vast talent pool which has been staring us in the face the whole time: those candidates looking to move from the corporate sector. So let us cast our faces in two directions like Janus, to both the charity and corporate world, to wherever the talent happens to be.
Just who would make a good fundraiser?
We can see from Civil Society research, that certain personality types are associated with fundraisers. Someone may have worked in the charity sector for a decade but may not have the right approach. All of us involved in the recruitment chain in the third sector have probably experienced this difficulty at some point. Rather than multiple campaigns to find mythical archetype fundraisers, we should perhaps consider new horizons. We are all in danger of reusing the same networks over and over again; this is a pool that has to dry up! A loop where it’s hard for new ideas to come in.
Candidates trying to make a career move into the charity sector can find the shift notoriously tricky, and the sector almost impenetrable. Taking a look at the charity careers group on CharityConnect can be a great insight into the struggles they face. Still, these are people with substantial experience which more often than not is entirely transferable to a fundraiser career. A good question to ask is, just what makes a good fundraiser? Well, Someone who is organised, persuasive, who has passion for a cause and brand, who can really ‘sell’ the donation, who is sociable with high emotional intelligence and a focus on team success. These qualities are found in any income generation role, such as business development or sales.
The following corporate career-shifters can make amazing fundraisers.
- Business Developers
- Sales People
- PR professionals
- Communications professionals
To name just a few!
What skills would someone from the corporate world have?
If charities recruit from the backgrounds suggested above, they could access a talent pool of candidates who are otherwise excldued. Including: sales, marketing, research, income generation, corporate and business to business negotiation management including management of volunteers and negotiating with high net worth individuals. There are skill sets here which could easily be adapted to corporate and major donor fundraising.
These candidates are a (largely) untapped pool of talent who have proven experience in generating income and maintaining good relationships with clients. These are the same skills a good fundraiser has, right? We all want quality experience, but does this have to be paid charity experience? (and if so, then why?) Many career shifters have long volunteering careers behind them, if anything this should be more of a statement of commitment to the sector than having the luck to get a paid role.
What do charities gain from this?
Recruiting talent from the corporate world can be an excellent opportunity for charities, a chance to bring in fresh approaches and ideas. A demonstration of this is the appointment of Simon Lande, a tech entrepreneur to the position of Fundraising Director for NSPCC.
“His track record of building partnerships and digital engagement will bring valuable expertise to the charity, and bring new focus to how we fundraise and work with our supporters.”
It is chance to absorb some of the successes from the corporate sector and perhaps to change practices which aren’t working in the charity sector. Ultimately, when recruiting for fundraisers, we need to start thinking who could be the best person for the job, regardless of the background of their experience. If experience is relevant and transferable, then so be it.
As our own research show’s candidates may have the relevant experience, but feel excluded by current HR practices:
“I am transferring from the private sector and many jobs in which I can make a real contribution require non-profit specific experience.”
“It's surprising how impersonal the charitable sector is with its recruitment and how impenetrable the sector is for new entrants. I often wonder if charities are short-sighted / open-minded about potential employees and question daily my decision to try and break into the sector.”
Have a fundraising role to advertise? Post on CharityJob & the IoF for maximum exposure.