Fundraising is already a sector where there are significant skills shortages. All of us who are involved in fundraiser recruitment, at all levels, can point to many areas where there simply aren’t enough suitably skilled and experienced people to meet the demand. (That’s why we set up our specialist fundraising search practice at Aldrich & Ward)
The new fundraising practice will make this problem worse. Because it will require a lot more of the skills that are in short supply. We need lots of people who can work flexibly, in integrated ways, who are able to handle and interpret complex data, are digital natives, who will be brave. Who can develop and nurture relationships with supporters. Who are mission driven.
The fundraising workforce we have has lots of talented and passionate people. But we don’t have enough of them and they don’t all have the right skills. We have lots of project managers. We don’t have too many entrepreneurs. In a world where data is king, we have too few people who have really strong analytical skills. Too few fundraisers are skilled enough in the arts of face to face relationship building.
These aren’t problems unique to our sector but we do have some specific barriers. No one looking at a collection of fundraisers in the UK can fail to be struck by the lack of diversity. While not ever fundraiser is a white, middle class, humanities graduate from the South East of England*, it often feels that way. There’s surely no intention to recruit our staff from a narrow slice of the UK population but we do seem to fail to bring in people from different backgrounds. This is an equalities issue but it is also an effectiveness issue, widening the recruitment base would also help address the specific skill shortages in the sector.
We need to find ways to attract people from different backgrounds and experiences. There aren’t enough people coming into fundraising from the commercial world, particularly in mid career. I continually meet exceptional people currently working in the private sector who would love to work in charities. Even apart from the salary differences, these individuals often find it very difficult to get into third sector organisations due to unimaginative recruitment processes.
Above all, we need as a sector to think much more strategically about our people. We are a sector where there is massive turnover and huge sums are spent on staff recruitment with fundraisers changing jobs every 18 months. In a relationship business, this is madness.
Too many charities fail to properly invest in their staff, have no real retention strategies, do not consider succession approach and adopt a commodity approach when they purchase recruitment and search services. Charities may state publicly that staff are their biggest resource but they completely fail to make this commitment a reality.
If there is one thing that will make or break the new approach to fundraising, it will be our ability as a sector to develop and nurture the talent that will deliver it
As with everything else, it always comes down to people
*this includes the author, naturally.