Recruitment of fundraising professionals in the third sector is becoming more and more difficult - especially for more specialised roles. Charities tend to recruit from within the sector, but the fundraising landscape is changing and perhaps it is time that recruiters started looking for fundraising talent from outside the sector.
Why is there a lack of fundraising talent in the charitable sector?
There are several reasons that this lack of fundraising talent in the third sector can be attributed to. Salaries can be lower and benefits packages aren’t as good as the commercial or corporate sector, and fundraising skill sets are becoming more niche. Just like marketing roles where it is becoming more common for professionals to specialise, this is the same for fundraising. There are various different fund disciplines - including community, events, major donor, trust and foundations and corporate - each of which currently requires a more niche skillset and relevant experience than, say, street or telephone fundraisers.
It is also fair to say that charities often make high demands whilst seeking fundraising talent, which is understandable considering fundraisers are a charity’s main source of income and the backbone of an organisation. However, perhaps charities are looking in the wrong place? Charities are often reluctant to stray from the requisite ‘charity sector experience’, which in reality is a rather vague and undefined requirement. Many recruiters in the charitable sector value more specialised skills and ‘tried and tested’ fundraisers, and are reluctant to look for candidates with a broader skillset including those transferable and soft skills that are so important in a potential employee.
So, what can charities do to increase their fundraising talent pool?
Perhaps it is time that charities considered the vast and diverse talent pool outside of the sector itself. Candidates from outside the third sector can find it tricky to move into charity fundraising, but in actual fact, many of these people have similar roles in a commercial setting and therefore have the relevant broader and softer skills needed to succeed. Bringing in candidates from the commercial or corporate sectors offers several advantages. Not only do they present a chance to absorb some of the successes from corporate sectors, but they can also bring in fresh approaches and ideas and offer a commercial and unique approach.
But what actually makes a good fundraiser? Someone who is organised, persuasive, emotionally intelligent, focuses on team success, who has a passion for a cause and brand, and someone who can really ‘sell’ the organisation. These are all qualities that can be found in a huge variety of candidates outside the charitable sector, including professionals in sales, business development, marketing, PR and communications, to name but a few.
Those with experience in marketing, PR and communications should perhaps be the easiest to recruit from outside the sector, as these roles require skills that are often directly transferable across sectors and that can be applied to a charity fundraising setting. Events professionals, in particular, probably offer the most relevant skillset. However, it is also not uncommon for salespeople or recruiters to move into fundraising, particularly corporate and major donor fundraising, which relies on building accounts with companies and firms - all transferable skills that should be valued by talent recruiters in the charity sector.
People with voluntary experience should also not be overlooked. A charity worker who gets paid can be equally monetary-driven as passion-driven, whereas having voluntary experience demonstrates passion, commitment and dedication to a cause - invaluable skills in an employee in the third sector.
More often than not, people who are looking to move into charity fundraising from outside the sector are overlooked, despite the other skills they have which would make them the perfect candidate for the role. If charities recruited from the corporate and commercial worlds, they would find a vast untapped talent pool who have proven experience in generating income, negotiating with high net worth individuals, and building and maintaining good relationships - all of which can easily be adapted to fundraising.
Ultimately, when recruiting fundraising talent in the charity sector, it is important to start considering candidates from outside the sector and thinking about who is the best person for the job. Instead of simply focusing on where their previous experience has come from, maybe it is time to focus instead on where someone’s relevant and transferable skill set can add value to the charitable sector.