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Ask the specialists: what's happening in fundraising recruitment?

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‘Do you ever feel like a plastic bag?’ asked takeaway promoter Katy Perry to widespread bemusement in an early hit, but fundraisers may have been able to relate, given they’re also very useful, increasingly hard to find, and if you get a really good one you'll definitely want to hang on to them.

That's where the similarities end though, as it’s not obligatory to keep a large fundraiser full of other fundraisers somewhere in your kitchen, nor do they bob around the Pacific choking turtles once retired.

In fact, they're becoming more of a scarce resource, as we recently shared (for an article you can read here) with the good people of UK Fundraising, who were keen to hear our thoughts on:

  • Recruiting fundraisers

  • The state of the market post-pandemic

  • What charities can do to attract more of these elusive employees

With thanks to Melanie May at UK Fundraising for the questions, we quizzed our fundraising specialists Hannah Laking, Dagmara Wolosiuk-de Paula, Hayley Wilson, Dominic Gilchrist and Lucy McBride (L-R below), and here’s what they had to say in full.

How has fundraising recruitment changed in the last year, and in comparison to during/before the pandemic?

Compared with 2020-21, we were inundated with vacancies right through 2022, only slowing down slightly in the last few weeks before Christmas as normal. However there hasn’t been a corresponding increase in candidate numbers – there’s still a real shortage, so it’s been tougher than ever for charities to attract the people they need.

Relative to previous years we’ve seen a notable increase in internal promotions, particularly in areas that were less affected by the pandemic, like Trusts and Statutory fundraising. That’s a positive thing in many ways, but with more people achieving career progression where they are, there's less incentive to move, which means even fewer candidates in the market.

In the last year we’ve definitely seen people’s salary expectations increase – not so much at the senior end of the market but certainly from assistant to mid-manager level. People seem to have become much more confident in asking for more, likely because high inflation and sharp increases in the cost of living have made rises essential at the lowest levels, and given most people a strong case for seeking higher rates.

Have you had to change the way you recruit?

We’re certainly having to be much more proactive in the way that we find people. Job adverts still have their place but can’t be relied on to bring in enough of the applications you need. That’s made things like LinkedIn far more important, as it’s become more about us reaching out to candidates than the other way around.

The rise of remote working has added a new dimension too: if you're not restricted to commuting distance of a particular location, it opens up a lot of new possibilities and makes for a very different search.

​What kind of skills and experience are employers currently looking for?

There’s strong demand across the board, but fundraisers with digital skills are particularly sought-after, as they have been for several years.

What's new is that in areas like philanthropy, corporate partnerships and regional community fundraising, we’re seeing charities becoming a little more open to considering candidates from outside the sector. It’s a smart move, given there are insufficient numbers in the charity sector yet plenty of skilled people eager to join.

Out-of-sector candidates are also starting to see more opportunities where organisations have introduced more inclusive policies, under many of which, a lack of charity sector experience isn’t considered a valid reason to exclude them from the process.

What are fundraisers looking for and how can charities attract them?

Flexibility has become job seekers’ number one concern over the last few years, even more so than salary, and it’s now very much an expectation rather than an optional extra. Where organisations won’t meet their expectations or agree an acceptable compromise, we’re seeing many fundraisers walk away altogether, confident they’ll find somewhere else that will.

For their part, most organisations are offering some degree of flexibility, but in the last year we’ve seen a shift towards a slightly more rigid approach, with many requiring two days per week in the office as a non-negotiable minimum.

We’ve also seen a notable increase in people seeking to condense their role into four days rather than five. It may not be viable for everyone, but where charities are willing and able to accommodate this type of arrangement, it's one way to gain an advantage at potentially no extra cost.

The other question that candidates are sure to ask is around diversity, equity and inclusion. Fundraisers will want to see you have clear and well-communicated policies, and to feel that they’re working for a forward-thinking employer. We’ve worked with several charities in the past year who are really setting the pace, reconfiguring their recruitment process with bold, innovative and far more inclusive practices.

Speaking of the recruitment process...

Simple and straightforward is definitely the way to go. In this market, candidates don’t want or need to jump through hoops like lengthy application forms and statements, presentations or multiple interview rounds (stick to two at most), so consider what's really essential.

Most importantly, don't let it drag on for weeks: candidates won't hang around, so you can't afford to either. Holding interviews online is generally quicker and in our experience more effective, as people tend to be more relaxed, and once you've seen them all, make the final decisions as soon as you possibly can.

If you follow these steps, will you suddenly find it's raining fundraisers (hallelujah!)? Unlikely. But will you have the best possible chance of emerging victorious from your next battle for fundraising talent? ​Absolutely, and even more so if you've got a dedicated team of experienced fundraising recruitment specialists on your side.

That was a (shamelessly obvious) plug, by the way, but just in case you missed it, here's how to reach us if you’d like to know more about the current market, or if you need our assistance with new fundraisers or new opportunities during 2023 and beyond. We'd be delighted to help!

Team Fundraising

Your fundraising specialists

Hannah Laking

020 7820 7331 • Email Hannah

Dagmara Wolosiuk-de Paula

020 7820 7315 • Email Dagmara

Hayley Wilson

020 7820 7306 • Email Hayley

Dominic Gilchrist

020 7820 7332 • Email Dominic

Lucy McBride

020 7820 7324 • Email Lucy

​Contact our specialists

​Search fundraising jobs

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