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​10 things to think about before you recruit your first Fundraiser

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Bringing a fundraiser into your organisation for the first time is a huge step for any charity. It means that you are ready to grow and engage new individuals with your cause and start making (more) fundraising asks. Before you start to write a job description and person specification or to put out a job advert, there are some vital steps to ensure your charity is Fundraiser ready and that you are looking for the right person.

Fundraisers come in all shapes and sizes. You need a clear picture of the fundraiser that is right for your organisation.

1.Fundraising is a professional skill

Fundraisers are highly skilled professionals and valuing that skillset and knowledge is the most important first step. As the first professional Fundraiser in your organisation, you want someone with a working knowledge of charity income generation.

2.Engage a professional

If you do not have professional fundraising experience within your own organisation, you’ll need to engage a Fundraiser in your planning ASAP. If you do not currently have a fundraising trustee, consider getting one before beginning your Fundraiser recruitment. If it is time sensitive, ask someone to volunteer their time or pay a Fundraiser to consult with you during the process. Seek a sense-check on your decisions with someone who has working fundraising knowledge.

3.Be realistic

This is especially important, if you are exploring new income streams. There is a huge amount of foundational work to be done in the first 6-12 months to get your charity ready to ask for money. Predictions are difficult to make as they depend on so many factors, but it is a pretty good rule of thumb that your Fundraiser is unlikely to generate much more than their own salary in year 1 from a standing start. For example, if you do not have a marketing person, your fundraiser will need to spend time raising awareness before (and as well as) raising money. Many charities make the mistake of considering another charity’s fundraising income as a benchmark, but your capacity, resource and profile also need to be considered.  

4.The cost of fundraising

Fundraising costs money. It is an investment in the future of your charity. Consider what you expect your fundraiser to generate and pay them accordingly. If you are expecting strategic insight as well as operational delivery, you will need someone with enough experience to be able to deliver that for you. Think about your options carefully. If you cannot afford someone full-time, you could consider three or four days first. Once you are generating more money, you can build an additional post into your strategy. This also gives your fundraiser a future development opportunity and will help to keep them with you longer.

5.What is your need?

Consider how much you are hoping your Fundraiser will generate once they are up and running (years 3-5) and make sure you are clear about this throughout the process. Again, seek a sense check with your fundraising expert and ensure that this forms part of your interview process so that you can see how candidates respond. It is so important that both you and your Fundraiser are aware of your expectations before they take the job.

6.What type of fundraising suits you?

Fundraising is a complex business with many income streams to choose from. Your sole Fundraiser cannot and should not do absolutely everything. You will need them to focus on key income streams that are most relevant and best suited to your cause and current circumstances. You do not necessarily need a definitive strategy in place before the interviews (as this may form part of your fundraiser’s new role), but you will need some guidance on what will/will not work.

7.Are you fundraising ready?

There will almost certainly be a large amount of internal communication to do within your organisation before your Fundraiser starts. Why have you decided to employ a Fundraiser? What will your Fundraiser be doing? Your Fundraiser will need engagement (and time) from your staff so you need to prepare them for that in advance. Everyone in your organisation will need to be behind your Fundraiser and for the most successful charities, everyone in your organisation is a Fundraiser too. Share the knowledge you are gaining from the recruitment process with your staff (and volunteers where applicable) to make sure they have positive, realistic expectations.  

8.Fundraising expertise on your interview panel

It is absolutely essential to have fundraising expertise on your interview panel to help guide you through the process. Coming back to the fact that fundraising is a professional skill, you need fundraising knowledge in the interview room. You would always have an accountant present for your finance interviews and this is no different.

9.Be flexible

Flexibility is key to recruiting the best person for your fundraising role. Most charities now have flexible working policies in place and you need to ensure that you are competitive in your offer. For example, many Fundraisers now have some capacity to work from home (even for one day per week) and candidates are often driven by factors other than salary.

10.Your marketing material

Your job description, person specification and job advert are all hugely important marketing materials in recruiting your first Fundraiser. Make sure they are concise, realistic and inviting. Ask your fundraising expert for support and spend time making sure you are sending out the right first message to your future Fundraiser.