Advantage NFP Fundraiser

Fundraiser recruitment – key insights & tips

Melanie May | 14 December 2022 | News

Two women shaking hands in a white office

The recruitment market has certainly seen some changes in recent years. The lockdown years of 2020 and 2021 saw redundancies, furloughs, and people across all sectors working remotely through necessity. Since the UK opened back up, many have reassessed what they want from their jobs, looking for the flexibility in working practices brought by the pandemic to continue. Now of course, the rising cost of living and the challenges that brings are having an impact.

But with ONS statistics showing vacancies overall at record levels early this year, how has the past year been for the fundraising sector in particular? Certainly the number of fundraising roles listed on job sites has increased. Hybrid roles have risen, while onsite jobs are dropping as job seekers continue to look for flexible working, whether it’s hybrid or remote, and employees increasingly have to offer it.

2022 job market

Karen Harlow, Senior Content Manager, and Lucy Hardy, Research Manager, at CharityJob note:


How to move from Fundraiser to CEO - by Bruce Tait. Upwards white arrow on blue background.

“We’ve seen the number of jobs on our site increase in 2022 overall ­­– by 36% compared with 2019 ­– including fundraising jobs. There has also been an increase in the proportion of hybrid fundraising jobs and a decrease of onsite jobs over time.”

It’s a similar story at Harris Hill. Hannah Laking, Divisional Director and Dagmara de Paula, Principal Consultant of Harris Hill’s Fundraising team add:

“Compared with 2020-21, we’ve been inundated with vacancies for most of the year, only starting to slow down a little in the last few weeks – but there’s still a real shortage of candidates, so it’s been tougher than ever for charities to attract the people they need.”

Impacting this, they have seen a notable increase in internal promotions, particularly in areas like trust fundraising that weren’t hit quite so hard by the pandemic. This too has had an impact:

“Because more people have been able to get career progression where they are, they’ve had less incentive to move, meaning there are even fewer candidates in the market.”

Rising salary expectations

Salary expectations have risen too, particularly since the cost of living started to rocket. Charity workers are now among those striking for better pay, as seen this month with Shelter, ASIRT and Hestia.

Laking says:

“Salary expectations have definitely increased – not so much at the senior end of the market but certainly from assistant to mid-manager level. People seem to have become much more confident in asking for higher pay, likely because high inflation and the cost of living have made it essential for those at the lowest levels, and given most people a very strong case for requesting an increase.”

The call for transparency

Other changes are also impacting the market – the call for greater transparency on roles available has grown stronger. Charities are now routinely challenged if an ad fails to include the salary or demands a degree, thanks in no small part to the work put in by the Show The Salary campaign group, which launched in 2020 to push for fairer recruitment practices, and #NonGraduatesWelcome. The latter launched in 2019 to campaign against the seemingly automatic inclusion in many fundraising job ads for degree-level qualifications. It asks organisations that include this as a requirement to justify why it is necessary, or remove it.

Fundraisers also want to work in more equitable and diverse organisations – Change Collective’s 2019 report for the CIoF Who Isn’t In the Room showed that only 9% of fundraisers belonged to a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic group. Just this week, The Race Report revealed that, in environmental charities, only 7% of the workforce identify as Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic.

This year also saw Working Class Fundraisers (@WorkingClassFrs) launch – one of the aims of which is to drive positive change in the sector for, as the name suggests, fundraisers from a working class background.

Harris Hill for one has worked with several charities in the past year who it says are setting the pace by reconfiguring their recruitment process with far more inclusive practices.

Growing expectations

Overall then, fundraisers expect more from their roles, and, with more vacancies available, they are prepared to move on if these expectations are not met. Recent research from Revolutionise International, What Makes Fundraisers Tick?, revealed that the main reason people choose careers in professional fundraising is belief in the mission and the organisation and that if they feel disconnected from this – whether by colleagues, or because of structures and budgets, they will seek employment elsewhere.

Elizabeth Palfreman at Polly Symondson Recruitment says:

“While salary is a prime consideration, particularly in the current economic crisis, it is not the only consideration: Does the charity’s aims resonate with me? Can I be passionate about the cause, can I see the impact? How am I going to develop in this role?  What are the opportunities for me to expand my knowledge, step outside my comfort zone?  Will my voice be heard in this charity?”

Recruitment tips

For recruiters and charities alike, this means working harder to fill roles, and a growing push to use fairer recruitment methods.

At Harris Hill, de Paula comments:

“We’re having to be much more proactive in the way that we find people – you can no longer rely on advertising to bring in applications, so things like LinkedIn have become far more important. Most of the placements we make now come from us reaching out to candidates rather than the other way around.”

Over at Polly Symondson Recruitment, Polly Symondson observes:

“The market is busy – everyone wants a fundraiser and they want them now! Jobs are taking longer to fill – they might go through one or two cycles before being placed. Candidates are cautious about moving – they want to know a lot more information upfront before considering a move.”

Priorities for job seekers

So, if you’re looking to fill some roles, the top 5 for job seekers in the sector are:

On flexibility, Harris Hill’s Laking notes:

“It’s now very much an expectation rather than an optional extra. Where organisations won’t meet their expectations or agree an acceptable compromise, we’re seeing many walk away altogether, confident they’ll find somewhere else that will.


“For their part, most organisations still offer flexibility, but this year we’ve seen a shift towards a slightly more rigid approach, with many requiring two days per week in the office as a non-negotiable minimum. We’ve also seen a notable increase in people seeking flexibility over when they work as well as where, with many keen to condense their role into four days a week rather than five.”

Improving the application process

But in addition to all this, it’s not just what the job offers, but the application process itself that matters. And quite often, it’s offputting. Research by CharityJob found that jobs that recruit using application forms get a third of the applications of jobs that recruit using CVs and cover letters.

A survey of their candidates in October 2022 found that the main things they want recruiters to do to improve their application experience are:

And of course, job seekers also want charities’ ads to show the salary and stop asking for unnecessary qualifications. Recruitment agencies and job boards are on board with a number in recent months announcing that they will no longer accept job ads that make such demands, and #NonGraduatesWelcome research also showing that degree requirements are becoming less prevalent.

Putting your best foot forward

With job seekers able to some extent pick and choose, charities now really have to sell their jobs, and themselves.

Palfreman says:

“Candidates will look at websites and Google search so ensure that your digital footprint is representative of who you are. A common issue are charities who say they welcome candidates from a diverse background and the website gives the opposite impression. How does your CEO and senior team come across on social media?  Certainly there are candidates who have said they are keen to work for certain charity leaders because of their positive reputation, and the reverse is true.”

And it’s also about showing that fundraising is valued by a charity – if this doesn’t come across, that organisation is going to look a lot less appealing – and simply showing that an organisation is a great place to work. Offering an informal chat can really help here, offering a great opportunity to sell the job and the cause.

As Symondson says:

“Ultimately job seekers want meaningful, genuine interactions – treat your candidates how you treat your donors.”