New Zealand's shortage of fundraisers. A recruiter's view

In conversations with clients, I am often asked about “the market”. The short answer and truth is that there is a shortage of reputable, experienced and highly skilled talent on the market. Couple that with an increase of opportunities and we have ourselves a situation. From personal experience, most of you would know of the shortage in your team or the increased number of head hunting calls (thanks LinkedIn)! Jobs are vacant longer, people are in their positions for shorter periods of time and salaries are over inflated. This is not sustainable.

What about Talent Management?

This is an area I do not see as a strength when dealing with clients and yet, it is the most obvious starting point to solve the shortage equation.

The shortage of good talent is not exclusive to the NFP sector or Fundraising. It is wide spread and my Business Partners are reporting the same within Property, Manufacturing, FMCG and Retail for example. The issue does not discriminate towards the smaller lesser funded or known NFP, it is wide spread into large employers. Appreciating the fact that an Executive Search Consultant like myself charges a success fee and may not always be the first option for sourcing, I am very familiar with the conversation that starts like this; “we have been looking for three months with no luck at all, what can you do for us?” Often the CEO or other key leaders spread themselves thin as they pick up the fundraising duties whilst concurrently managing their own desk. Not an ideal scenario.

One of the changes in the current market is the increase in development programs or campaigns and annual budgets due to the need, plus an increase of NFP organisations in an already saturated market. This too results in a higher demand for experienced fundraisers.

A part of the answer to this is effective models of recruitment and retention for key talent. Retention, I believe, is the important factor out of the two, as it is more cost effective to retain your staff then recruit them. How do you retain the best talent when the job boards are full with opportunity and head hunters are calling on a weekly basis? With nearly ten years of interviewing and screening Fundraisers of varying levels and abilities under my belt I have found a few common themes as to why a Fundraiser moves on. One of the ‘must ask’ questions for a recruiter is “what is your motivation for leaving”?

1. Remuneration - Many people state that money is not the number one value but, in my experience, it has proven to be the number one reason people leave. If a competitive salary is not an option then I recommend offering meaningful benefits such as industry memberships, accessible training or mentoring, parking, smartphone, laptop and flexible hours. Ask your Fundraiser for simple suggestions as the solution to he/she staying may be something obvious yet unthought-of. Additionally, have set performance review dates.

2. Advancement - Moving on to greener pastures for more senior roles is common place. NFPs are notorious for flat structures, limiting internal advancement, with the average tenure for a NFP CEO being much longer than our commercial cousins. Give fundraisers greater responsibility to expand through new initiatives, table innovative funding ideas and even cross over duties. Especially junior fundraisers.

3. Leadership - Typically known to be the top reason for attrition. Conflicting leadership styles, demanding Boards, unrealistic goals or simply clashing cultures. Some of the best examples of congruent thinking between executive leadership / Boards and the fundraiser is to give more ownership to the fundraiser around forecasting, budgeting and setting realistic expectations and feedback as to the current funding landscape and a long term ‘sustainable’ approach.

Outside of the above three points I am also receiving feedback in a lesser portion but equally interesting. Loyalty to their current employer, desire to move into the corporate world and rising through the ranks is the counter offer which raises a whole raft of separate questions.

If you are a fundraiser who has been seeking work or found new employment, or have been hiring - let us know your thoughts.


Brad Stewart

Partner, Saturn Group