How to get hired as a head of fundraising



It can be very difficult to find the right mix of skills and personal qualities in a head of fundraising. Photograph: Dave Caulkin/AP

The need for precision leadership has become increasingly stark in a world of diminishing funds. As technology races onwards, trampling job seekers underfoot, fundraising roles are shifting. Even senior managerial roles are not immune to the vagaries of a harsh and competitive job market.

Andrew Hyland, recruitment and resourcing manager at Macmillan Cancer Support, says fundraising has changed greatly in recent years, and with it necessary management skills have changed too.

“There are so many different channels,” he says. “Mobile technology, online giving and new initiatives such as Twitter and Facebook, which heads of fundraising need to have an understanding of – the competition to find the right mix of skills and personal qualities is intense.”

Macmillan has just experienced this intense competition in its search for a new head of fundraising. Hyland describes the quest as “a comprehensive and rigorous campaign involving an executive search agency, our own executive management team and board members”. After interviewing four high-calibre candidates, three external and one internal, they plumped for their own co-director of external affairs.

“Macmillan was looking for someone who would bring fresh ideas, solid thought leadership and enthusiasm to the role,” says Hyland, “and Lynda [Thomas] continually stood out as the outstanding candidate.”

While the charity makes sure it looks externally, he says Macmillan takes a pragmatic approach when recruiting for high-profile roles. “Macmillan always endeavours to recruit people of the highest calibre, while balancing the need to support our own succession-planning objectives and promote and encourage our own people.”

Paul Marvell, director of learning at the Institute of Fundraising (IoF), believes that charities still pluck from a small pool of voluntary-sector candidates. He doesn’t think it is easy for fundraising heads to migrate from other sectors. “It’s a challenge to get through the door,” he says. “At the moment, [recruiters] are not looking out of the charity sector.”

He warns that fishing in the same pool of potential recruits is risky for the sector. “There’s a shortage of really good directors, in particular those who manage a big fundraising team of several hundred staff at a big charity.” And yet not enough commercial people from outside the sector are applying for these roles, “because they feel they don’t have the experience”.

He describes the kind of person larger charities are looking for as: “Someone who can manage a large team and have exceptional communication, interpersonal and relationship-building skills, because as a head fundraiser you’re expected to interact with the donors.

“Organisations are now looking for very wealthy people, so directors of fundraising need to be able to network or mix with high-net-worth individuals or corporates.”

Excellent financial ability, as well as people management skills are essential, he says. “Because you could be managing tens or hundreds of millions [of pounds]” Read more


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