How to recruit your first fundraiser

How to recruit your first fundraiser

How to recruit your first fundraiser

If you’re a small charity looking to diversify your income, you might consider taking on a fundraiser. Alex Hayes shares his advice for recruiting the right person


The funding environment is shifting. A lot of charities, especially smaller or local organisations, have been reliant on local authority funding for a number of years, and some of these ‘traditional’ funding streams are changing or drying up altogether. The most recent edition of our Small Charity Index showed that statutory income for small charities and local groups has declined since 2013, with voluntary income only growing slightly.  


With this in mind, a lot of charities are looking to employ their first fundraiser. So what is the best way to go through what can be a tricky process, and almost certainly an expensive one?


What is your fundraising strategy?


When you are thinking about the job, it will all start with the fundraising strategy. Are you looking to bring someone in who can set the strategy and then deliver it? Or are you bringing someone in simply to deliver your strategy? This may depend on your budget. Obviously, the more experience a fundraiser has, the more they will have the ability to set the strategy but also the higher the salary they will be looking for.


The answer to this will also give you an idea of when you are likely to see a return on your investment. As the old adage goes, you will need to ‘speculate to accumulate’ and even the best fundraisers can take time to pay back this investment (this will often depend on the types of fundraising you decide to focus on, e.g. corporate fundraising will take longer to see returns than community fundraising). Is everyone within the charity, and especially the trustees, on board with this? A good fundraiser, along with the resources they might need, their national insurance, pension, recruitment costs, could easily cost £50,000 in the first year. A good fundraiser should prove a good return on this investment, but not an immediate return.


If you are unsure about the level of salary that might be appropriate for the type of fundraiser you are looking for it is useful to cross-reference against other job advertisements as well as looking at a salary benchmarking reports such as those developed by recruitment agencies and umbrella bodies – a good list can be seen here.


Whichever way you decide, a recent piece I wrote on diversifying your income might prove useful when looking at your strategy.


What sort of fundraiser do you need?


Different forms of fundraising require different skill sets and different personality types. Be realistic in the different fundraising streams you want someone to do. This is partly based on the time they will have and also their skills and experience. For example, corporate fundraisers will need to be confident pitchers and willing to develop cold contacts, while trust and foundation fundraisers need to be excellent researchers and writers.  


There are different people who could help: people who have worked in small charities are likely to have a broader range of experience, while those from larger organisations may be experts in one field.


Are you willing to look outside the sector for your first fundraiser? This may depend on the level of experience you are looking for but someone with the right attitude, some relevant transferable skills (such as sales) and passion for your cause could be successful. Remember, you can train them in the specifics they need to know, and at the FSI we offer very heavily subsidised training and conferences in a range of fundraising methodologies for small charities (those with a turnover up to £1.5m) or training packages for larger charities.


As well as skills and experience, what are the practicalities? Where will someone be based? Do you need someone full time? I would advise being as flexible as possible – you can widen the pool of fundraisers who might be able to apply by, for example, offering flexible or home-working.


Some practicalities:


Although it may seem obvious, getting the practicalities right really can support you to find the best candidates for your role:


  • Advertising


I often find that job descriptions and person specifications, while very important, are very dull! Think about why people would want to work for you? What is your impact as a charity? Who are your beneficiaries? Can you include some of this information to engage people? This could be a quote from your beneficiaries or even a quote from someone else in the organisation about why they like working for you.


You can always engage a recruitment consultant to help with this as well. There will be a higher cost associated with this but, of course, you will only pay this if you are successful. If you are going to go down this route, go with a specialist in the charity sector and always try to negotiate on their rate – it’s not always fixed!


  • Interviewing


Again, this relates back to the areas of fundraising you are thinking of focusing on. Can people give you examples of how they have succeeded in these areas (or those relatable)? Always look out for ‘we’ – fundraisers love to talk about what they did in a team, but what was their exact role? Importantly, look for the values they would bring along too.


Once you have offered someone the job – don’t think it is all sorted! You will need to take up references and undertake any other due diligence your organisation requires. It is also important to keep them interested and engaged. Before they start, can they meet with key people or see the work of the charity in action?


Hopefully the above tips will help you to employ an excellent fundraiser to lead you to fundraising successes.  


Alex Hayes is consultancy and development manager at the Foundation for Social Improvement


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