Trucking magnate Lindsay Fox is reputed to have said: “My biggest business decision was to get a second truck.” Going from one truck to two is monumental for a small business; for many nonprofit organisations going from no fundraising staff to one is just as big a step.
HIRING FUNDRAISING STAFF IS A BIG STEP
In fact, appointing a first fundraiser is such a big step that most organisations put off doing so for several years until pushed by financial necessity. Others overcome the financial hurdle of that first fundraising appointment by making fundraising part of a mixed role. Schools are particularly prone to doing this, and while fundraising might mix well with alumni relations, it doesn’t work very well when schools mix the role with marketing, communications, enrolment, and even the role of bursar.
The trouble is that a great fundraiser is patiently relationship-based while the other roles are deadline driven and have many “all hands on deck” events. These frequent occasions put fundraising on hold again and again. While charity CEOs and school principals appreciate the flexibility of staff who cover several areas, they sometimes don’t recognise that this is the reason that fundraising is not effective.
FUNDRAISING STAFF ARE BETTER PART-TIME
If your organisation is looking to hire your first fundraiser, you will do better to have a part-time fundraiser than a mixed role appointment. Working Tuesday to Thursday can be very effective – it avoids lots of public holidays and avoids Friday when many donors are unavailable anyway.
Whether part-time or full-time, fundraising staff need permission to say “No” sometimes when asked to help with other activities. At the end of the day, the fundraiser is judged by the funds raised – and that needs to be the focus of the role.
RECRUIT FUNDRAISING STAFF WELL
There are many good fundraisers who are studying for a higher degree, raising a family, or nearing retirement, who will find a part-time role appealing. Even when appointing a fundraiser part-time, recruit to a high standard. Look for:
- Alignment with your organisation’s culture and values
- A history of success in the kinds of fundraising your organisation will do
- Great listening skills
- The ability to write and converse well
Have an agreed fundraising strategy for the institution so that the fundraiser can’t just pursue their favourite fundraising activities, and an agreed set of measurables that can be assessed by the CEO and shared with the Board.