OPINION: THINKPIECE - A broad policy of recruitment pays dividends

HELEN MOLDEN, the business development manager at businessdynamics, an enterprise charity for students

What makes a good fundraiser? Good people skills, persuasiveness, the ability to communicate effectively and a tenacious, persistent spirit?

Fundraisers with these qualities and more are hard to find. Charities have long claimed to hire people with such qualities from the private sector. But the reality is that outside of the top ten charities and away from director/trustee positions, the move from the commercial world into the not-for-profit sector is harder than you might think.

When I left the world of media more than a year ago, I thought that I could offer charities the combination of skills and experience they look for in a fundraiser. I had a proven track record of working for magazines and at exhibitions, and was determined to work for an organisation where I would be contributing to more than just the bottom line.

Yet when I approached both charities and agencies, I was surprised at the degree of suspicion and reluctance. There seemed to be a desire only to consider candidates with previous fundraising experience, despite the fact that I had a solid track record of bringing in revenue from blue-chip companies.

At the time, The Guardian was full of charities desperately seeking fundraisers, but most required candidates with previous experience. So I was stuck in this chicken-and-egg situation, unable to obtain a fundraising post because of my lack of formal experience and yet finding it difficult to gain the relevant experience because no-one was prepared to take a chance on me.

Of course, mistakes can be expensive, so it is important that charities recruit the right person for the job. But, at the same time, they need to realise that they can benefit hugely by employing people at all levels with commercial experience, especially in areas such as sales and marketing.

Corporate supporters increasingly demand a similar level of service and evaluation as the business relationship of client and supplier.

I was fortunate to find a fundraising position at a youth education charity where I can use the skills I obtained working in the media. It was able to see beyond a CV and look at skills and potential. Now I hope that as the sector becomes increasingly professional, more charities will do the same.

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