Career advice for fundraisers considering new roles

The early part of the year often brings more interest to the job market; time spent away from the office over Christmas gives moments to reflect and set fresh objectives for the coming year. It’s little surprise that this might include a new job.

What struck me most about this year is the increase in fundraisers approaching us to discuss the next step in their career when they are clearly not professionally ready to make that move.

I’m not here to rant or patronise, but I am keen to share a note of caution to any fundraiser who wants to climb the career ladder, and what to be aware of.

What’s causing this?

Ambition is nothing new. However, I’ve been supporting fundraisers to secure new jobs for long enough to see patterns and trends. There are clearly multiple reasons behind any changes in the job market and these may include:

  • The cost of living in London. People want to get on the housing ladder, and they can often afford a mortgage repayment but not a deposit. The only way to get there is to earn more money. Simple enough.
  • There is a shortage of talent in the sector, so fundraisers are being regularly approached about more senior positions at higher salaries.
  • We live in an age where many things are more instantly attainable. Amazon can deliver the same day. Tinder can arrange a date that evening. Uber comes to your door, sometimes with McDonalds. Technology and innovation mean there are fewer things you need to put in the grunt work for.

What are the realities of a promotion in fundraising?

Any desire to increase salary is understandable. However, be wary of the risk of being over-promoted. Whilst you might think your boss’ job isn’t much different from your own, there is no substitute for time and experience.

Senior roles will invariably put you in more challenging positions, especially with donors, trustees and senior leadership. Experience helps you develop the right approach and builds the emotional resilience to deal with these scenarios.

Preparing for a promotion in a fundraising job

  1. Get yourself a mentor away from your charity
    Someone who understands your job, is objective and can tell you how it is. You may feel your boss has a conflict of interest when she or he tells you that you’re not ready for the next move, so ask your mentor what they think. Both the Institute of Fundraising and the Facebook Group Fundraising Chat support fundraisers to find mentors.
  2. Take your time
    Work will be a big part of your life for a long time. It’s tiring, and god knows it’s full of challenges. Don’t be in a rush. Enjoy it. Seek the knowledge of others and resist the thought that the job market has changed so much that your 45-year-old manager doesn’t get it anymore. They do, as they’ve been there themselves, and more often than not they want what’s best for you.

Why your fundraising track record matters

Increasingly I’m being sent CVs from fundraisers who have been in post six months and are claiming responsibility for significant income generation achievements.

Any race to the next role may mean a shorter stint in post, so be mindful to avoid too many short-term stints on your CV.  This will be a big concern for future interview panels.

Most fundraising streams take a long time to mature, so don’t claim credit for achievements that patently aren’t yours because you’ll get called out on this. It takes time to get to know an organisation, build a case for support, understand the motivations and drivers for your donors – your next boss knows this.

What are fundraising interview panels looking for?

Our charity clients are looking for fundraisers who have had an impact in their previous roles – often taking income from X to Y or contributing to that process.

For Manager and Senior Manager positions, they will want to know that candidates bring well rounded experience of comparable scenarios as well as the personal characteristics that take time to build, such as resilience and self-awareness.

That’s not to say they can’t support your professional development and the gaps in your experience, but you need to bring the things that they can’t teach you.

I said earlier that technology and innovation mean there are fewer things you need to put in the grunt work for. I’m afraid careers and relationships remain two of the things you have to work at.

If you’d like to have an honest, objective assessment on your readiness for a new role, please call me on 07702 678 658. I’m happy to help in any way I can. You can read more about the sorts of roles I recruit on my profile page.