Recruitment Quandary: How can I attract fundraising talent?

Published: 21 Apr 2016

Tony Bennett, recruitment sales manager for Third Sector Jobs, answers this recruitment dilemma about attracting and retaining fundraising professionals

Tony BennettTony Bennett: "If you look outside the sector you could unearth a gem"


Question: There is a shortage of fundraising skills in the charity sector and my fundraising team is on a recruitment drive. How can I attract the best talent?

Tony Bennett says...

Before looking to bring in new fundraisers, I would strongly recommend ensuring you have the best possible structure in place to retain existing staff. Staff retention in fundraising is a key focus in the third sector at the moment. It is estimated that the average fundraiser will change organisations every two years, so make sure you have a clear career progression plan in place for your existing staff and reward them at or above their market value. Whilst this may mean investment now, it will be far more cost effective in the long run; rather than having to hire and train new staff, and potentially operate with reduced capacity whilst recruiting. 

When you are looking to recruit charity talent, the most important first step is to write good job copy in order to give potential candidates all the information they need about joining the organisation. Cause is often a crucial motivator for charity candidates, which presents a unique challenge when recruiting as your talent pool is sometimes limited to those with an affinity to your organisation. This means you have to work harder to make sure these candidates know you are recruiting.

As you have acknowledged, there is a shortage of talent within the not-for-profit sector so don’t be afraid to look outside it. I have met many successful fundraisers who have joined from FMCG sales or media sales backgrounds. There are strong synergies between account management/sales and fundraising roles - fundraising is about selling your charity’s cause so core sales skills are vital in a successful fundraiser. 

Whilst there is some excellent talent outside the sector wanting to work for charitable organisations, some HR professionals in charities are reticent about hiring them because of the training cost, and some also believe they would not be able to compete on pay.  Whilst in certain cases these concerns are valid, if it’s proving difficult to recruit from within the sector then it’s an option that’s definitely worth exploring as you may unearth a gem. 

And don’t assume you can’t compete with commercial organisations when it comes to attracting talent. Charities often offer better benefits, such as flexible working, time off to conduct charity work and generous holiday entitlements. These will attract people who value job satisfaction beyond salary. This could be your ace in the hole to win people over from the commercial sector, so make sure you shout about your culture and benefits in any recruitment marketing material, especially your job ad. 

I work for Third Sector Jobs, and firmly advocate the use of sector-specific job boards to find talent - recent research we conducted showed that 33% of active jobseekers found their last position via a jobs board. However, I would recommend using a multi channel approach including other methods such as your own careers page and proactive searching using social media. 

For more fundraising recruitment advice, watch this video on six best practice tips for fundraising recruiters or call Tony Bennett on 020 8267 8021.

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