November 23, 2016
The Perfect Storm: Fundraising Recruitment
Nick Billingham, Associate Director
It's always been challenging
recruiting for fundraising roles in a "candidate short"
market, but it feels like it's tougher than ever...
I have been recruiting fundraisers for around 7 years and over that
time have recruited to a variety of fundraising positions for a mixture
of organisations. From very large charities, to very small non-profits,
across a range of different causes.
It's always been challenging
recruiting for fundraising roles. As
demand increases, job seeking fundraisers can seemingly afford to be
more and more selective about what they will and won't go forward for.
Larger organisations are responding by upping the salary and increasing
the working flexibility on offer - indeed these two things will often be
the first thing I will suggest to clients who are struggling to
recruit. In turn this is leading to a steady increase in average
salaries across the market - as the numerous salary surveys out there
The high demand for candidates has meant that unless charities have
a highly desirable and renowned brand - they will often struggle to
solicit a high volume of applications. Organisations who typically rely
on application forms have reported to me that there have been numerous
occasions where they have had zero relevant applications for different
fundraising posts in the last few months. It feels as though any small
barrier to applying can be enough to put people off. Application form -
not a chance! References up front - no thank you! More agile
organisations are responding by accepting just CV's and ditching the
application form. Again this is often one of my suggestions to anyone
struggling to recruit a fundraising role: simplify the process. Yes - if
people really want to work for you they will find the time to complete
the form. Perhaps, but perhaps not.
But why have we got to this point? Why are salaries increasing
while very few people apply for roles? Why can it often be so hard to
encourage actively seeking fundraisers to apply for roles which on paper
should fit their criteria? For me this all stems back to what we as a
sector (and by sector I mean the fundraising world specifically) do to
attract new talent. Fundraisers are no doubt ambivalent to people like
me contacting them about potential opportunities. And until we lower the
demand this will undoubtedly continue to be the case. Additionally we
will no doubt continue to see more recruitment agencies entering the
sector hoping to become the next specialist fundraising recruitment consultancy.
But really, we don't need more recruitment agencies, what we need is
dramatically more people coming into the fundraising world. We need
that to be a mix of graduates and career changers. The charity sector needs to promote
fundraising as a career to a wider audience, and once we are in contact
with them we should focus on competency based interviews and not
knowledge. If someone has the right core skillset, surely they can learn
the nuances of the charity world.
There has been talk in the sector for years that we will see more
mergers and acquisitions in efforts to streamline - in turn, presuming
the economies of scale, this should reduce the level of demand to fill
roles. Whilst there are some high profile examples this doesn't
necessarily seem forthcoming. So what else could be done? Do we need to
start to offer even higher basic salaries with commission, bonuses and
the potential to work a 1 or 2 day week?
Understandably there is a reticence to do this so I am trying to
think of what the potential alternatives are. Is the future of
fundraising shared resource? Could organisations working on the same
cause share a centralised fundraising team? A group of fundraising
experts working on one cause who have a range of different cases for support to match to different donors? Admittedly this sounds far fetched
but without an influx of new talent I am wondering what happens next.
This piece is not a rant, it's a plea. I love recruiting to this
sector but I don't love telling hiring managers I don't have any
candidates for them. It's a plea for all organisations to be more open
to hiring and training new talent. A plea for there to be more paid
graduate schemes. And a plea for someone to tell me that a shared
fundraising resource is a crazy idea and I should stop thinking about
how it could work.
In the meantime I urge you to consider that commercial candidate looking
for their first fundraising role and ensure when you meet them your
interviews aren't biased to candidates bringing sector knowledge. Do
more to encourage your charity to promote itself as a great employer and
one which operates within a sector that provides great careers.