Last year Prospectus worked with over 500 not-for-profit organisations looking to secure talent for their fundraising teams and supported over 1,300 fundraisers in exploring their next career move.
A common theme in junior fundraisers, particularly those in their first or second role, is a significant amount of drive and ambition to take on a more senior role and grow their salary and responsibilities – often they will look at roles with other organisations rather than stay with their current employer. Some people might call it a “millennial mindset” and it’s reflected in research from Deloitte that indicated 43 per cent of millennials plan to leave their current jobs within two years.
In our conversations with senior fundraisers when they are looking at their talent pipeline and the next generation of fundraisers, one of the most important things they look for in a new hire is a combination of experience, knowledge and networks as well as ambition.
If you have the ambition to step up and grow your fundraising career, here are some areas you might focus on to combine with that drive for success.
Learn your craft
Most fundraisers start off honing their skills in one area – it might be individual giving, legacy, major donor or any other income steam. At a minimum you should be spending 18 months getting to grips with this specialism, see the seasonal trends, make some mistakes (the best opportunity for learning!) and feel the fundraising success!
Expand your knowledge
As you grow and develop look for opportunities to build your skills in an area of fundraising you are less comfortable with. It might be a secondment in your organisation, shadowing a colleague or learning from a mentor. This is essential to becoming a well-rounded fundraiser and taking on a more senior role that manages different income streams.
Fundraising and Marketing
You may have noticed a trend in fundraising and marketing teams sitting under the same directorate. It is very common at large charities and becoming more prevalent with SME organisations – sometimes these combined teams are called “Engagement” divisions. As you move further in your career having some of the skills and knowledge that underpin digital, data, marketing and communications will become more important.
There is a plethora of information about fundraising – it can be established academic journals, news sites, online networks, events and membership bodies. Keep up to date with what is going on in the sector, the success and failures, to build a good foundation of knowledge. Some of our favourites are below:
Build your network
If you have ever been to a fundraising networking event you will notice most fundraisers love to talk! These events are an amazing opportunity for you to learn and also build a professional network. The person you are talking to one week might be looking to hire someone into your dream role the following week. Fundraising is a relatively small world and you should find opportunities to build your personal brand.
You will find pockets of communities that provide a more granular level of network and support. There are well established examples like the IOF special interest groups, CASE and growing networks like Environmental Funders Network. Chances are you already know one that’s right for you – but if not, ask your peers and network.
You might find there are formal mentoring schemes that work for you or perhaps there is someone in your network, or perhaps your managers network, that can support you with your career development. Either way having someone experienced that is outside of your organisation can be a real benefit to testing, challenging and developing you as a fundraiser.
If you would like a confidential conversation about the current market and opportunities, you can contact our Fundraising Team on 020 7405 6999.