3 things to think about when recruiting fundraisers

Published by Damian Chapman on

photodune-4415072-recruitment-mAs someone who has recently gone through the fundraising recruitment machine, I have been amazed at the number of national and large charities who handle recruitment of their fundraisers badly.

Any recruitment agency will tell you that finding the right candidate is all that matters, but bearing in mind that the recruitment process for that candidate will help to shape their view of the organisation, I have been scratching my head sometime trying to work out what is expected of me as a potential candidate.

1)     Be clear about what you are looking for

I recently interviewed for a head of fundraising at a national health support charity that generates £7.5million per year, of which a massive £5million came from corporate support. The only plan seemed to be to ‘hold our ground’ pending an NHS review into services- and yet the charity rejected excellent candidates for not having worked on incomes exceeding £12million.

If you know this is what you want, tell the candidates who have taken the time to research, apply, be shortlisted and prepare for interview BEFORE they arrive, not during or after the recruitment process.

Be clear about what you actually want from a person you are hiring, and tell the prospective candidates so that they know what to expect. If you do appoint someone, without this clear vision, it makes it a very difficult start to your first 100 days in post.  You also run the risk of throwing good donations away in a failed recruitment attempt.

[the Charity didn’t recruit anybody, and have since increased the salary and are going again- with exactly the same information. Anyone want to guess what the success rate will be?].

2)     Be honest

Another charity I interviewed for as a Head of Fundraising was a helpline for young people operating nationally based out of central London.

This £1.3m charity were appointing an entire senior management team (except the chief executive) to drive the organisation forward. As part of the recruitment process, candidates were given a copy of the fundraising and marketing strategies… only during the final interview (and having just given a presentation on opportunities to build on it) did it come to light that the balancing fundraising strategy given to candidates wasn’t the actual fundraising strategy for the coming year at all, but a false one created for interview.

I am all for commercial sensitivity, but if you are asking a prospective head of fundraising to pull together their first six months in post, give them an honest picture. The opportunities identified were at poles apart from the real situation and threw candidates’ thoughts for the rest of the interview- hardly ideal circumstances to be recruiting for the top fundraiser in your organisation.

[again, the Charity didn’t recruit a head of fundraising, and have been with an interim for six months whilst they go again for recruitment- and maintaining the status quo all the while].

recruitment3)     Stick to your deadlines

A national welfare charity recruiting a head of fundraising published a very logical and well-considered timeline for recruitment with their information pack. After the closing deadline for applications, notification for the full interview was duly received a couple of days later- and gave the final interview date as the day to go to their offices and meet with the CEO, Chair of the Board and outgoing head of fundraising. After a thorough interview of over 90 minutes (which in my opinion is too long for an interview), I asked what happens next…

“We will decide which of the candidates we will be shortlisting and invite them back for final interviews in two weeks’ time.” I was speechless, so much so that the Chair of the Board asked if that was a problem. Now, whether right or wrong during an interview, I said yes and brought their attention to the timeline they had sent to candidates.  “Oh, that was a guideline, just to show what the steps were,” came the reply from the Chief Executive. I was called back for a final interview but declined.

[yet again, the post is unfilled and has been re-advertised].

The moral of all this is simple, or so I thought as a recruiter myself- know what you want from a candidate, be honest, and stick to the timescales published.

I now have a wonderful home at a world renowned pets charity, and will be in post and enjoying it before you read this blog.

Damian Chapman

Fundraising for over ten years, Damian Chapman is an upcoming fundraiser with a passion for technology, innovation and person centred fundraising. Currently Head of Fundraising for Envision, Damian also lectures at various conferences and events.


Ligia · October 18, 2013 at 16:01

Oh I had the exact same expériences. One in particular, after not hearing from the organization for 3 weeks, I got a call from the HR department telling me the process was delayed because of vacations, etc. They were recruiting for a Director of Development who would lead a team of 8 fundraisers. In the meantime, I had 2 interviews and had accepted another position. It made me Wonder how serious they were to hiring a senior-level position.

Several weeks after that, I got a call from a head hunter asking me if I wanted to apply for that exact position. I suspect all the candidates got tired of waiting and the organization decided to use a head hunter. No words on who or if they hired!

Henry Larry · February 21, 2024 at 06:15

Insightful take on fundraising recruitment. Defining expectations maintaining honesty in strategy sharing and sticking to timelines are keys to securing the right candidates. Lets elevate the recruitment experience for both organizations and potential fundraisers.
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