Five important things to know about recruiting fundraisers for your NFP

Fundraising is critical to the survival of almost all not-for-profit organisations. And with more than 50,000 NFPs registered in Australia, the demand for fundraisers far outweighs the supply.

But because almost every organisation is looking for them, recruiting fundraising staff is notoriously difficult.

And retaining them can be just as hard – statistics from the UK’s People Count Third Sector 2015 report show turnover rates among fundraisers are significantly higher than the wider NFP sector.

So how do you recruit talented fundraising staff to your organisation? Here are five important things to remember:

1. You need to sell your organisation

Just as your NFP works to attract donors, you need to work to show potential fundraisers why your cause should interest them.

Whether your NFP is small or large, high profile or not well known, it’s critical to ‘sell’ the advantages of working there at all stages of the recruitment process, from the job ad text, through the interview process, and right into onboarding.

You’ll need answers to questions like these:

  • Why should they be excited to work at your organisation?
  • How will raising funds for your organisation make the world a better place?
  • How will working at your organisation differ to other NFPs that engage fundraisers?
  • What opportunities can you offer that others don’t?
  • Has your organisation won recognition for its work or awards for its services?
  • If you’re unable to offer a competitive salary, can you offer salary packaging, flexitime or other perks like remote work?

Demonstrating how your organisation really makes a difference can be an incredibly powerful drawcard for attracting talented fundraisers.

2. Decide which skills and experience are truly non-negotiable

It’s easy to come up with a list of qualities you’d like in your next fundraiser: a strong track record, unbridled passion for the cause and years of relevant experience.

But with stiff competition for fundraisers, a long list of “essential” skills and experience is more likely to mean your role goes unfilled.

So when you’re putting together a PD and job ad for the role, determine which skills and experience are truly non-negotiable and which skills could be developed on the job.

If you’re looking for a “gifts and bequests” fundraiser, for instance, a proven record of building long-term relationships might be essential. Does it need be experience with building donor relationships though? Perhaps other experience in relationship building – like through business development – could be just as valuable.

And for a grant specialist? Relationship-building experience might not be an important quality at all.

And how many years of experience are truly necessary? If your job ad says “five years of fundraising experience” is essential for candidates, does that mean someone with only 4 years of experience should look somewhere else?

3. Call out for career changers

Many people are seeking to switch from their corporate jobs to more meaningful work in the not-for-profit sector. That otherwise untapped potential can be a boon for your organisation.

Career-changers from fields like sales, account management and marketing will often have a number of transferrable skills pertinent to fundraising, like presentation skills or relationship-building.

Don’t assume those making a move from the corporate world will be turned off by the NFP sector’s potentially lower salaries for fundraisers. Again, this ties back into selling your organisation: many people value meaning over a higher salary or expensive perks.

In fact, a 2016 survey by EthicalJobs.com.au found that 42% of jobseekers said their most important concern in a new job is that the role or employer has a positive social or environmental impact.

Just 5.25 percent identified salary and perks as the most important factor.

4. Nurture new talent

The not-for-profit sector isn’t generally known for offering the graduate schemes or structured training programs that some big corporates provide. But that doesn’t mean they’re out of reach.

For example, Cancer Research UK has put more than 90 trainees through their graduate training scheme since 2000. The program allows the organisation to develop inexperienced graduates into strong professionals in areas like fundraising, marketing and finance, while also working to meet its own targets.

The program allows them to attract enthusiastic candidates with only a fairly basic salary, in return for training and career development prospects.

Fundraising volunteers can also be a great source of passionate, dedicated candidates who might be able to work wonders with a little bit of training.

5. Keep the fires burning

Once you’ve found a great fundraiser, what can you to do to keep them?

With the wealth of job prospects available to talented fundraisers, they’ll like have high expectations of training and career development opportunities.

That might include opportunities like staff training, professional networking opportunities like conferences, mentoring, or even secondment to other parts of the organisation, where they can get deeper insights into the work the organisation does, and the difference it really makes.

Providing regular feedback with the view to keeping them engaged, motivated and continuously learning is also essential.

Recruiting talented fundraising staff in today’s competitive market can be challenging, particularly if your NFP operates on a shoestring budget. But with the right approach that looks beyond the obvious and prioritises staff development, it shouldn’t be rocket-science to build a fundraising team that helps your organisation thrive into the future.

This post is based on an article which first appeared on the Third Sector UK website.

Does your organisation recruit fundraisers? We’d love to hear your own tips in the comments below.

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