Recruitment: how to find fundraisers from other sectors

Sarah Bayjoo and Mabel McKeown
Sarah Bayjoo and Mabel McKeown

Talented fundraisers are notoriously hard to find - and can be even harder to keep. The People Count Third Sector 2015 report, published in September by the research company Agenda Consulting, found that staff turnover rates were highest among fundraisers: 29 per cent of them left their jobs last year, compared with 23 per cent of all charity staff.

Attracting more people directly from the private and public sectors could help address the shortage, but some charities remain reluctant to go down this route. A view persists among some that skills and values acquired in other sectors are not directly transferable to charities, although this might be less the case with recruits from politics or other campaign work.

Joanna Dew, director of fundraising at East Anglian Air Ambulance, held senior marketing roles at the mobile phone operators Orange and T-Mobile before becoming national events marketing manager at Macmillan Cancer Support. She has since worked for a variety of large and small charities in marketing and fundraising.

Dew believes that charities need to be open-minded.

"Recruiting in fundraising is really hard," she says. "There are some roles, such as major donor specialists and legacy specialists, where you can advertise two or three times and still not find the people you're looking for. The key is not to put lots of barriers in place, such as insisting that people have degrees."

In her experience, people who have worked in the private sector tend to have skills that are highly desirable in fundraising, such as the ability to present a compelling case for resources to a senior management team and the ability to focus on big wins. But she concedes that there can sometimes be a clash of cultures.

"In the commercial world, we would talk about things such as the product road map, but in the charity sector people tend to consider such terms to be a bit American. But it's these types of structures and planning that will take the charity sector to the next phase."

Alice Wood, business development manager for the recruitment consultancy TPP Fundraising & Development, says people who work in the private sector tend to be able to work to targets, are used to pitching for work and know about strategic planning - all of which are relevant to fundraising. But she says charities often still look for candidates who have demonstrated a commitment to the sector by, for example, volunteering for a cause.

She says attitudes to recruiting staff from other sectors are changing. "The charity sector is more open to taking people from other sectors, though less keen on candidates from the public sector." The greater willingness to turn to the private sector is most apparent in the recruitment of corporate and major donor fundraisers, Wood says, but less so in other roles. Someone who is a successful salesperson in the private sector will not necessarily be a great community or event fundraiser, she says.

Charities tend to pay less than private companies, but Wood does not see this as a major barrier. She says: "Those who decide to make the move have usually already accepted that their salary is going to drop."

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