Is the sector doing enough to recruit and retain good young fundraisers?

27 Jul 2015 Voices

Good young fundraisers are worth their weight in gold, yet as Hannah-Polly Williams discovered at Fundraising First Thing, the sector still has work to do when it comes to retaining them.

Hannah-Polly Williams

Good young fundraisers are worth their weight in gold, yet as Hannah-Polly Williams discovered at Fundraising First Thing, the sector still has work to do when it comes to retaining them.

Earlier this month Catherine Miles, director of development at Anthony Nolan, took questions from the audience at the Fundraising First Thing event, run by Civil Society Media.

When asked what challenges the sector faced in inspiring the next generation of leaders, answers from the floor came flooding in.

But two stood out: how do we attract young talent to the charity sector, and once we have that talent within our organisations, how do we retain it?

How do we attract young talent?

It became clear early on in the discussions that, unsurprisingly, there would be no easy, quick fix to attracting young talent to the sector. Instead, it will be vital to build fundraising into the career options of young people from an early age, engaging with schools and universities to make this happen. Organisations like Charityworks are helping to address this, but more needs to be done.

Diversity needs to be at the heart of this; a recent report revealed that only 12 per cent of chief executives, 6 per cent of senior management team members and 8 per cent of trustees are non-white, and whilst approximately 80 per cent of the fundraising sector are female, this drops to 50 per cent at director level.

How do we retain young talent?

The fundraising sector experiences high turnover rates at the non-director level. Millennials (those born between 1980-2000), who often hold these non-director positions, may have different expectations of their workplace to those of earlier generations.

A recent PwC study, the findings of which are broadly applicable to the fundraising sector, found that millennials prioritise team cohesion, praise and appreciation, and flexibility, over control of work, development opportunities, and pay satisfaction.

Whilst by no means being applicable to all millennials (who are, after all, no more homogeneous than any other generation), evidence suggests that some of this generation desire promotion and recognition quicker, and may have higher expectations overall of their employers.

As a result, there can sometimes be pressures on fundraising directors and departmental heads to deliver promotion opportunities that are just not available. With promotion only being one component of the retention puzzle, the challenge is on for fundraising teams to offer additional benefits that implore their rising stars to stay longer.

At Anthony Nolan, Miles focused on developing the whole fundraising team and found that the Insights profiling resources allowed her team to identify their preferred working styles. This information enabled the team to enhance how they worked as team, and also with other colleagues across the organisation.

Miles also stressed the value of internally promoting where appropriate, with three of her five departmental heads having been promoted to their current roles. The results speak for themselves; average length of service for a fundraiser at Anthony Nolan is 2.5 years and the team scored as a 3* team (the highest level) in the 100 Best Places to Work survey.

From the broader discussions, honesty also came out as a important strategy when a young star is suspected to be dissatisfied and looking for other opportunities. Whilst recognising that sometimes it is the right time for individuals to move on to their next opportunity, often bringing the possibility out into the open and talking candidly can alleviate some of the frustrations and buy the organisations another few months.

It is a challenge the sector should get used to; millennials are set to account for 75 per cent of the workforce by 2025, and we need to be ready for this.

Hannah-Polly Williams (@hannah_polly) is the head of donor development at London's Air Ambulance.