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Recruitment crisis? It’s a symptom of the industry crisis

Recruitment crisis? It’s a symptom of the industry crisis

2019 was a year when more than ever managers were complaining just how difficult it is to recruit right now. I can say that because I was definitely one of them.

It seemed in a lot of industry press, online forums and conferences there was at least someone talking about the recruitment or talent crisis.

Gone were the days where you could put a vague fundraising advert out without a salary, expecting the mandatory but utterly irrelevant degree, years of professional experience and the skills to do to conflicting jobs and expect a torrent of quality candidates. 

Contributory factors to the crisis?

Luckily as fundraisers we don’t come up with problems without trying out solutions. I managed to corner Peter Lewis and ask him what his thoughts on the crisis are and he summarised what many in the sector were saying:

  1. Too many mandatory degrees
  2. Not enough entry level jobs
  3. Too many jobs based in London
  4. Too high essential criteria
  5. Not enough diversity in displaying what you do.

Two of us heard those answers and our two responses were pretty different. The first person, a major donor fundraiser for one of the worlds largest charities and based in London said “Absolutely!”. 

I, however, sighed. From my own personal experience of advertising multiple jobs felt that I had little to improve on from four of those five points.

  1. I didn’t list mandatory degree experience in any jobs that I advertised.
  2. I advertised entry level jobs and even made a song and dance about what a great way it was to get into the fundraising sphere.
  3. All the jobs I advertised were outside of London, in a town with a fairly healthy 200k population and surrounded by other large towns within commuting distance.
  4. The essential criteria for the role were fairly basic, and were indeed essential (use of excel, being able to write an email correctly etc)
  5. Whilst displaying some diversity, especially around disability, I can see how we didn’t appeal as much as we could here. We had a project to improve it in motion but you can’t improve diversity overnight.


What else to change?

So I was left scratching my head and considering how we needed to change what we are advertising.

In the meantime I saw some fantastic analysis on Facebook regarding what jobs are being posted to Fundraising Chat. Dave Burgess shared that out of 132 vacancies posted: 

  • 69 were London-based
  • 45 mentioned degree level education
  • Only 11 were entry level

So there is definitely some truth in these problems but they clearly aren’t the whole story.


Passion led us here - sign on the pavement. Photo: Unsplash


It’s not that there isn’t an ingenuity in the sector when it comes to recruitment. Some major charities are competing with the likes of Virgin by making aspirational, large scale adverts. Virgin themselves have been interesting before, listing only personal qualities that are desired, no experience necessary. I am also aware that some major charities white label their job adverts to try and attract people from outside the charity sector to their roles. 

Has it really got to that point? Whilst I agree that whatever can be done to attract quality candidates should be done, this effort almost feels to me like they are ashamed of their cause? I know that’s illogical but I can’t shake that feeling. 


Questions to myself

I decided to review the posts that I had previously struggled with. I have tried to take myself outside the scenario and be objectively critical. My questions (to myself) are:

  • Are we paying enough to attract quality talent? And by that I don’t mean just our cause, are we paying enough as a sector?
  • Are we selling working for a charity as a principle?
  • Is is safe to assume people know why they might want to work for a charity?
  • Do we only want employees who have altruistic tendencies? Can you only do the job well if you have these?
  • Is fundraising viewed as a serious, worthwhile and rewarding profession?

It’s that last bit that really bites. Because it is an uncomfortable truth. I really don’t think the average person views our profession well. Figures from the IOF and YouGov’s survey in September suggest:

  • 35% of men feel positive about the fundraising profession
  • 83% of the general public had not recently seen or heard something about the fundraising profession
  • 3% think that a typical day as a fundraiser would be rewarding

And those figures are a silver bullet to what a lot of us have known for a while. Speaking with a friend who mostly works with small causes it really opened my eyes. Many causes he works with view fundraising as an absolute afterthought. Often the growing charities he works with take their initial fundraising for granted and won’t consider spending on fundraising professionals, be that full time staff or other until late in the day.

Can you imagine any other industry treating their income generation in the same way? I can’t. The first member of staff to hire after you create a product or service should be the person selling it. 

So I am left a bit downbeat. I am aware of significant work taking place to increase our visibility and respectability as an industry. I am aware that most fundraisers these days see it as part of their job to inform people why it is a role. I am just worried that if recruitment gets harder and harder, how many of us will be banging this drum?

What effect will that have on our society?

Oli Hiscoe is the National Fundraising Manager at the MND Association. Starting in the hotbed of fundraising that is Loughborough Rag he moved straight into the challenge events arena. Moving on through community and regional fundraising he is in his third management position. He is passionate about community fundraising and motivating fundraising teams.

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