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March 29, 2017

Attracting the best candidates

How do you attract the best people to work for your cause? This article looks at what charities need to do.

Attracting the best candidates

Carla Miller

It is often hard, even for the larger charities, to find the right fundraiser for the role they are trying to fill. They need to be ready for the role, fit in with the culture of the organisation, work well with their potential colleagues and, of course, they need to want to work for you.

Your recruitment brand

It is therefore really important to put some time and attention into your recruitment brand - both as a charity and as a fundraising team. There are charities I could mention that most fundraisers I know would jump at the chance of working with. That's because their fundraising team has a great leader, is doing exciting things and the charity has a reputation as a great place to work. And because they've let people know about all of that.

There are other charities that have a bad reputation that people in the know wouldn't touch with a barge pole. If your charity or team has had a turbulent time and things are turning around then you need to let people know things have changed.

If you want to improve your recruitment brand in the sector consider doing some of the following.

. Speaking at sector and fundraising events to raise your profile and the profile of your team

. Taking part in the Best Companies To Work For surveys

. Undertaking a staff satisfaction survey and sharing the results

. Using Linked In to build your profile and network within the sector - connect with fundraisers who are the ones to watch and use Pulse to share your views and updates

. Applying for sector awards for e.g. Best Fundraising Team

. Encourage and incentivise your staff to share the job details with people they know in the sector - a warm and genuine recommendation from someone working in the charity goes a long way.

Working with recruitment companies

Firstly let me declare my bias here - I was a recruiter of senior fundraisers at Charity People, the specialist charity recruitment company, for a year and then became Managing Director. But before that I had my own concerns and questions about the value of recruitment companies and during my time at Charity People I saw how to make the most of working with a recruitment company.

It would be wonderful if charities were able to recruit great fundraisers easily and didn't have to spend any money on recruiting. However that isn't the world we live in - and at the moment great fundraisers are like gold dust with multiple job offers on the table and counter-offers from their existing employer. When you can't fill a vital fundraising position in a timely fashion it is costing you money. And if you settle for the wrong candidate because that's all you can find then that is also going to cost you money (and energy which is almost more precious) in the long-term.

A good recruitment consultant knows you well, really understands the job and what you're looking for and also knows their candidates well. If they've been recruiting similar positions for a while then they'll have a great portfolio of candidates they know personally. For fundraising roles I would always recommend a charity focused agency rather than a more mainstream recruiter as fundraising has many income streams and someone outside of the sector won't understand those.

The ideal route is to find a recruiter to partner with long-term. That way they can build a pipeline of candidates that would fit well within your organisation, you can keep them in the loop before you're ready to recruit and they can offer advice on your job description and positioning of the role. It is tempting to work with multiple recruiters to "spread the net wide". I used to do that and wonder why I got terrible CVs. Recruiters have lots of jobs on their books and lots of candidates to manage too. They have to focus their attention on the roles that they are most likely to fill and if they are one of six agencies they are statistically unlikely to fill it so will spend less time on it. If they are the only agency you're working with they will work incredibly hard to fill the role for you.

It is also worth meeting with your recruiter in person (another reason to just use one). This lets them see the office environment, get to know you better and gets them inspired and excited about the role and the work of your charity. The more they know about you, the better able they are to select the right candidates and brief them before the interview.

First impressions count

You may be the one asking the questions at interview but at some level it is a two-way process. You should be aiming to make sure that every candidate really wants the job - then you really get to choose. Here are the things you should be thinking about before interview stage.

. Take the time to make your advert and description of the role inspiring, interesting and appealing. Give salary information or you're just wasting people's time.

. Create a great candidate pack. Too often charities send out job descriptions that were created for internal purposes or cut and pasted from old person specifications. A great candidate pack is visually appealing, gives background on the role and the charity and gives a sense of the culture and personality of the brand. It takes time to create these packs but charities like Teenage Cancer Trust do this brilliantly and I've never given their pack to a candidate and not heard the candidate say "I really want to work there - it sounds like such a good fit for me".
. Consider your essential criteria. If Ernst and Young don't need their candidates to have degrees do you? Plenty of great candidates have learnt more on the job than they would have done at university.

. Look after candidates when they come to interview - they're nervous so a warm welcome, a drink of water and a smile from Reception will go a long way to settle them down so you can see the best in them. As will running on time.

. Treat people with respect in the interview. They've taken time out of their day job and no doubt done lots of prep to come and meet with you. I've heard of candidates travelling for hours only to find the interviewer has forgotten the interview and cancelled it. And I know of one interview where the CEO took phone calls (in the room!) during the interview. Obviously those candidates no longer wanted the job and as a recruiter I chose not to work with that charity anymore.

. Feed back about all candidates you interview and do it in a timely fashion.



Mark Astarita talks about the fundraising employer brand at British Red Cross.

"Our fundraising people strategy is that we are aiming to be the best fundraising shop in the sector. Known to be the best fundraising shop, where people want to come and work for us so that the fundraising brand is really powerful. We give people exceptional development opportunities, we grow exceptional talent and you know what? We know they will go, in time. Even after they've gone we hope they'll always tell others that they loved their time at The Red Cross. The fundraising brand grows as a consequence and we continue to attract talent.

Almost twenty of my former fundraisers have gone on to be directors of fundraising. That's the thing I'm very proud about. It's lovely that they think I was important in that because I don't always see it that way. I think they're all exceptional."

Kate Collins shares how she has been building the employer brand for Teenage Cancer Trust.

"You need to be able to attract good candidates who will thrive in your culture - those two things are a rare combination. I've been quite deliberately making an effort (particularly after Stephen's Story because Stephen's Story is a remarkable story to tell) to speak at the Institute of Fundraising Convention and other sector events. Because it shows fundraisers who we are, what our culture is like and builds that broader sense of connection around our employer brand."

About the author

Carla Miller is a coach, consultant and facilitator, who works with charities and companies to create growth and develop happy, high-performing teams.


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