How to hire a fantastic fundraiser for your NFP

A great fundraiser is (almost literally!) worth their weight in gold. That’s also why they’re notoriously difficult to recruit.

From face-to-face fundraisers to corporate partnership managers and every job in between, many NFPs rely heavily on the donations and grants brought in by their fundraisers.

So what can your organisation do to get on the front foot when it comes to hiring great staff in this field where demand far outstrips supply of experienced staff?

A few months ago we asked our Not-For-Profit People community to share your top tips on how to recruit fundraisers – and got some great ideas back.

So once you’re on top of the basics like:

. . . . here are four of the best tips on how to recruit a fantastic fundraiser:

1. Make your job ad speak to your ideal candidate

As we’ve written before, a job ad is less about compiling a list of tasks associated with a role – and lot more like crafting a dating profile to connect with that ideal person.

And, like online dating, it pays to be (relatively) honest about what’s on offer. If expectations are too high, then both parties are likely to be disappointed.

Greenpeace Australia New Zealand has a lot of experience in hiring face-to-face fundraisers – many of whom would never have worked as a fundraiser before.

Greenpeace’s Lucy Boomer advises that for hiring people who are new to fundraising, you need to be honest about the job’s challenges, as well as the positives.

“Be upfront about what the job involves – don’t sugarcoat the difficulty of fundraising; however, do emphasise the rewards.”

She also says that multimedia content – like images or videos – can be extremely effective recruitment tools, as they allow candidates who might never have done face-to-face fundraising before to visualise themselves in the role.

2. Hire for a candidate’s ability to sell themselves

When you strip it all back, fundraising is a variety of sales. And like sales, it requires excellent skills of persuasion and relationship-building.

That’s why Christine, an HR professional in a prominent cancer charity, says it’s important to approach the hiring of a senior fundraiser the same way you might hire a salesperson.

“[You must] assess business acumen, budget and forecasting skills, and how they generate revenue,” she says.

How? Christine makes this assessment during the shortlisting process – specifically, looking at a candidate’s ability to make a compelling case in the cover letter.

“Selling their strengths and abilities in a cover letter is the same as writing to entice a new donor to partner with your organisation or make a donation,” she says.

Alternatively, use a short phone screening call to give them an opportunity to show how well they can sell themselves to you.

3. Look for excellent interpersonal and communication skills

Excellent communication skills are critical for many not-for-profit roles. But when it comes to fundraising, it’s one of the most important skill to look for.

Susan Solakovic from the Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association says her organisation’s top fundraising staff always have great intuition about people and incredible communication skills.

“They have high energy levels; high-level interpersonal skills; they easily read a person’s body language, speech, and tone; and intuitively alter their communication approach to suit the receiver.”

Susan says these qualities are important because “being able to quickly create rapport to generate a supporting donation or sale is the goal”.

“More importantly, should that not happen, leaving a good impression with the person for future contact is essential as this gives you a positive lead for donation/sales opportunities,” she adds.

Greenpeace’s Lucy Boomer suggests an easy way to assess a candidate’s abilities in this area is to put them on the spot in the interview, and ask them to role-play a typical situation they will encounter in the role.

“Roleplay the candidate: put them in the position of fundraising [in the interview]. It’s a great way to see how they would interact,” she says.

Motor Neurone Disease Queensland’s Lisa Rayner agrees, highlighting strong communication and writing skills, as well as an understanding of the donors audience as non-negotiables among candidates for fundraising roles, as they work closely with marketing and communications functions in her organisation.

“Fundraising writing and communication, whether they are doing it themselves or managing communications personnel, must be understood. Corporate communications writing styles are very different to writing for fundraising, and the techniques are specific in many areas.”

4. Prioritise onboarding – especially the connection to your mission

It’s common for fundraising candidates to come from outside the NFP sector. Given the lack of experienced fundraiser, candidates with private-sector sales and/or marketing experience might be the next best option for many fundraising roles.

Which is why a number of survey respondents highlighted comprehensive onboarding as an important step in recruiting a fundraiser from outside the sector.

Kim Berry from Save the Children says it’s most important to integrate your organisation’s purpose into the onboarding process. Research shows, after all, that connecting staff to the purpose behind their work is a powerful productivity and retention tool.

“Make sure onboarding includes a connecting with service delivery – since [excitement about] your mission/cause is a big part of staff retention,” she says.

Greenpeace’s Lucy Boomer agrees that onboarding is crucial. “A good induction can make or break a fundraiser’s first few weeks. Ensure they get the right training and introductions so they feel set up in the role – set them up for success, not failure.”

Do you have any more great tips for hiring great fundraising staff? It’s not too late to have your say – let us know in the comments below!

Image credit: flickr/nwabr

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