David Saint

Feb 8, 2018, 10:41 AM

Recruiting your first fundraiser

For many smaller organisations, recruiting their first fundraiser is a really big step. The charity may have few (if any) staff already and, by definition, probably no professional fundraising expertise in the organisation. So where to start? Here are some tips – starting with things to avoid!

What not to do

  • Don’t think that fundraising is easy and that anybody can do it. So don’t assume that you can say to an existing staff member (or volunteer) “You are our fundraiser now. Go and raise some money.” Similarly, don’t give the role to an intern, or a nephew or niece, or someone “looking to break into fundraising.” The best way to learn about fundraising is to get a job with one of the larger fundraising charities, not in a small organisation where there is nobody to teach you the ropes.
  • Conversely, don’t think that fundraising is so difficult that you had better get ‘a consultant’ to come and do it for you. There may well be a case for getting a consultant to help you plan the strategy and identify the kind of fundraiser you need, but in most cases what a charity needs is someone on its own staff, who will develop and nurture relationships with donors of all sorts.
  • Don’t don’t don’t offer to pay your fundraiser a commission. Funders hate it, the Charity Commission and Chartered Institute of Fundraising strongly discourage it, and the practice can lead to fundraisers putting their own interests above those of the charity (and the charity’s reputation). A fundraiser is a professional, just like a social worker, a conservationist or a lobbyist, and deserves to be paid for doing their job. They should not be asked to carry the risk on behalf of the charity – nor should they reap the rewards if the charity is unexpectedly successful in its fundraising.
  • Don’t expect a quick return (and don’t press your fundraiser to deliver one!) Successful fundraising is about carefully crafting a Case for Support, then researching and building relationships with the right donors. Depending on a number of factors including the nature of the cause itself, from a standing start a good fundraiser should more than cover their costs in the first year – but it might take nine months to get to that point.

Enough of the don’ts. What about the dos?

  • Do think through what kind of fundraiser you want – there are now many disciplines within the profession. Given the nature of your cause, your fundraising strengths and weaknesses, and what you want the money for, should your first fundraiser be starting with trusts, corporates, community fundraising, individual giving…..? Should you be looking for someone with deep strengths in just one or two of these areas, or more superficial strengths across a wider range of sources, able to develop a broader strategy and operate it with volunteers or, gradually, a staff team? Which also begs the question – are you looking for a grafter who will get on and raise the money but who may not be able to engineer step change in income, or a strategist and manager who can leverage a team of volunteers and/or staff, who between them will raise far more money that could be achieved by one individual on their own?
  • Do cast your net wide to find your fundraiser. Advertise on specialist websites such as CharityJob, so that it is seen by professional fundraisers. But also consider specialist recruitment services such as those provided by Action Planning – it is entirely possible that the person you want to appoint isn’t even looking for a job at the moment, so won’t see the advert.
  • Do make your job as attractive as possible, with a realistic salary, flexible working option etc. So many fundraiser adverts start with the words “This is an exciting opportunity…..” when on closer inspection it may be no more exciting than many other fundraising jobs! Recognise that this is a ‘sellers market’ – there are far more charities wanting to recruit fundraisers, than there are experienced fundraisers to go round. What can you do to make your job stand out from the crowd?
  • Do give your fundraiser a target – genuinely stretching but also genuinely achievable. A target isn’t automatically achievable just because your charity needs that amount! Also be specific about what you want the money for. If it’s for core costs say so (and recognise that this will be harder and more expensive to raise, and take longer). If it is for projects say so, and give the fundraiser chapter and verse on what the project is, what it will achieve, how it will be delivered, and what it will cost.
  • Do give your fundraiser support – direct access to the Chief Executive and/or Chair; perhaps a dedicated Trustee who will take special interest in the fundraising function; perhaps an informal ‘buddy’ or a more formal mentor – an experienced fundraiser who will support your first fundraiser in what is likely to be a lonely role.

Appointing your first fundraiser is indeed a momentous step for your charity – make sure you get it right!

For information on how Action Planning can help you prepare for and recruit the right fundraiser for your charity, contact David Saint at david.saint@actionplanning.co.uk.

David Saint

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