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Last updated February 27, 2016

Hiring a professional fundraiser can be an effective way to help grow your organisation, but just like any role, you need to make sure you have the right person for the job. Would you employ a Finance Administrator who didn’t know the difference between a debtor and a creditor, or seek legal advice from a person who wasn’t a lawyer? When it comes to employing a fundraiser, don’t cut yourself short by employing someone who is not a professional and who doesn’t have the qualifications or the proven skills.

Fundraising is a profession. There are qualifications, certifications and specialised courses available to increase knowledge, develop skills and establish a career path.

A professional fundraiser will be able to help your organisation:

  • Raise funds
  • Raise profile
  • Create a sustainable fundraising programme
  • Develop systems to support the fundraising programme

So where do you start?
Decide on what you need them to do and develop a job description. There are many examples available online with a simple Google search.

If your organisation has never had a fundraiser before contracting someone for a particular time frame or project is a good place to start. A contractor will invoice you and they are then responsible for their own tax, ACC and Kiwisaver payments, with the added bonus that you don’t have to pay sick or holiday pay.

A professional fundraiser should be a member of the Fundraising Institute of New Zealand (FINZ) and you can check out their website www.finz.org.nz for a list of member consultants. Each listing tells you where they are based, their areas of expertise and how you can contact them. Give them a call them, tell them what you are thinking of doing, and ask for their advice. They will be happy to help. The call and the first meeting (if you decide to meet) should be at no charge.

While all fundraisers will manage the introduction process slightly differently, there are some basic steps that should be covered. For me, after speaking or meeting with a potential client, I prepare a proposal outlining what I can do, over what time frame and at what cost. I send this to the potential client along with a list of current or recent clients who are willing to provide references, and enclose a draft contract so they have all the information they need to make an informed decision.  If you would like a copy of the contract I use, please feel free to email and ask.

If you want to employ a fundraiser then it’s no different than employing any other member of staff. You can advertise the role through the usual options such as your local paper, Trade Me, and SEEK, but be prepared for an influx of applicants who think they can fundraise but probably can’t.

A more targeted option is to consider advertising through FINZ or Exult. They can send your job advertisement directly to fundraisers throughout New Zealand or a more specific geographical area if you prefer. You could also use a recruitment agency who specialises in recruitment for the not for profit sector.

Regardless of whether you employ or contract someone, you need to meet with them. Ask for specifics about their work methods, fundraising knowledge, qualifications, track record and how they will report back to you. You might also like to consider having a fundraiser on the interview panel. I’ve been on such panels many times and it works well.

Get at least three current, relevant referees, think about the questions you wish to ask and call them. Just because someone is listed as a referee, doesn’t mean they only have good things to say. Reference checks are essential.

Skills or qualities you need to look for in your applicants include:

  • Be great at building relationships with a wide section of the community
  • Be organised
  • Be methodical
  • Be empathetic
  • Be able to relate to a wide variety of people
  • Have well developed written and verbal skills
  • Have good contacts/networks
  • Have a wide knowledge of funders in New Zealand
  • Be able to work within tight budgets
  • Be able to meet deadlines
  • Be a member of FINZ
  • Have attended fundraising courses
  • Know the importance of an organisation looking professional, not profitable
  • Understand and be able to sell that feeling of being needed

How much should you pay?
For those who regard fundraising as a type of sales and marketing activity, it would seem to make sense to remunerate fundraisers in relation to the ‘sales’ they make. However, fundraising is far more complex than that, as donations don’t often result from the work of fundraisers alone.

The reason for a donation may be the result of many motivators. The donation may be made because of the donor’s past history of giving, the emotional pull of the cause, or even because the donor had dinner with the Board Chairperson the night before. Essentially, the actual ask made by the fundraiser may have little to do with the donors decision to give, or the amount of the donation.

Most substantial donors have had long relationships with a charity and these relationships have often been fostered and cultivated over many years by staff, trustees and volunteers.  Understandably, these team members would feel resentful if a fundraiser was paid commission on a donation which was largely the result of their good work.

Astute fundraisers identify those prospective givers who will respond better if the Board Chair, CEO or other staff person participates in the solicitation process. These team members may resist participating if the fundraiser is getting a percentage.

There are information sheets on the FINZ website that provide further information in regards to employing a fundraising consultant and about commission fundraising. You can also download a copy of an annual salary survey to assist you with current remuneration levels.

While professional fundraisers should do their very best using the knowledge and experience they have, no professional fundraiser can offer a guarantee that their fundraising will be successful. A key to any successful appointment is ensuring you have a robust recruiting process in place.

About the Author
Stephanie Maitland CFRE, FFINZ, MFINZ
Stephanie has been a fundraising professional for over 20 years and has worked with a wide cross section of New Zealand charities. Projects have included trust applications, direct mail, special events, bequest programmes and staff training and mentoring. She has been a member of FINZ since 1991 and in 2008 she was named a Fellow of the Institute.