Those charities that close the door on prospective candidates without charity-side experience could be missing out, says Polly White of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home
I’d worked on the agency side within the charity sector for five years when I decided I wanted to move into a charity role and apply the experience I’d gained to a cause I was passionate about.
Each step in my career path up to that point had allowed me to understand the intricacies of how a fundraising department operates, taught me key campaign management skills, and showed me how to gain the best results from all demographics - and much more. And yet, when I began applying for charity roles, I found I kept running up against the same barrier - lack of previous charity experience.
Most charities, especially the fundraising departments, have ‘previous charity experience’ as a must in their job advertisements. By filtering prospective candidates in this way, how many great potential fundraisers could the sector be missing out on? To insist on candidates having previous charity experience may be closing the door on fantastic potential candidates, especially when you consider that the key skills every department in a fundraising team will need - project management, analytical and numerical skills - are all transferable skills that can be gained in other sectors.
We should be doing more to attract people with these kinds of transferable skills, and give them easier access into a fundraising career, instead of inadvertently overlooking them because they are unable to tick the ‘fundraising experience’ box.
Recognising that direct charity-side experience is hugely valuable too, perhaps we need to make it easier for those looking to transfer into the sector to gain this experience by offering more internships, or on-the-job training opportunities such as shadowing and mentoring, to give them a chance at securing a permanent role. It’s good to see that more and more charities are starting to embrace this approach, but much more could still be done to encourage more skilled individuals into fundraising roles.
I for one am delighted to hear that the IoF is working towards gaining chartered status, and from this, we should begin to see a clearer path of progression for fundraisers. Meanwhile, we perhaps need to better recognise that it's our responsibility to show people who are thinking of joining the sector that there are opportunities to carve out a successful and rewarding career in fundraising. This may involve us actively reaching out to those would-be-fundraisers, giving them a helping hand through the door, and helping them flourish in our fantastic profession.
Polly White, direct marketing officer at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home