Talent Management


The people that people give to

by Joanna Motion - 12 April 2016


Joanna Motion, one of the team that researched and wrote “An Emerging Profession”, reflects on fundraising recruitment two years on.

“Where do we get the staff?” is the cry that used to go up. “Talent management” is how we describe it now. Though the approach may be more sophisticated, the issue of recruiting and retaining education fundraisers remains an insistent concern for leaders of universities and development offices.

Triggered by the second anniversary of the launch of “An Emerging Profession”, the report on the Higher Education Philanthropy Workforce commissioned by HEFCE from More Partnership and Richmond Associates in 2014, here are a few thoughts from the stairs.

As we demonstrated in the Report, fundraising is now central to the plans of ambitious universities. It creates unusually satisfying and rewarding jobs. Demand for staff consistently outstrips supply – at all levels of seniority. So I suppose it should come as no surprise to revisit the Report and to see that of the 12 fundraisers mentioned in its case studies, as I write, only half are still at the institution they worked for when we interviewed them two years ago. Now, some of those had been in their previous role for highly respectable lengths of service – as much as 12 years in one example. But it’s a reminder that this is a group for whom mobility is a real choice.

There is some positively encouraging news. A spate of recent appointments at Director level in the UK have gone to a rising generation of fundraisers, to senior roles at Birmingham; the Courtauld Institute; Goldsmiths, University of London; The University of Manchester; the Royal College of Art and Royal Holloway, University of London among others.

The Report encouraged fundraisers – and their employers – to be open-minded about recruiting from other sectors. An unexpected by-product from the Etherington Report on the self-regulation of fundraising is that charity fundraisers may be looking with new interest at roles in education where they are less under the cosh of the tabloids.

We explored in the Report and its accompanying toolkit on recruitment and retention the steps that enterprising universities can take to attract and develop this valuable cadre of people. This goes beyond the lure of high salaries. In our online survey of development practitioners, completed by 30% of the then workforce, fundraisers told us that more important than salary in motivating candidates were: a sense of contributing in a way that made a lasting difference, respect within the organisation and the chance to help bring about a change of culture.

As that cultural change gets traction, universities can show both their success in attracting philanthropy and the impact that gifts make. They have some new cards to play first in appealing to the talent pool and then holding on to them: there’s the satisfaction of working with inspiring leadership; the exhilaration of joining a team that really knows what it’s doing; the thrill of touching astonishing gifts – and what they make possible.

So when a University like Melbourne announces that it’s crashing through its Campaign target and doubling the number it first thought of, the article that Glyn Davis, the Vice-Chancellor, wrote in The Australian outlining their plans is there to thank donors and to cement confidence – but it’s also a whopping great job ad for advancement staff. UK fundraisers will pay attention, because this “emerging profession” is global.

Across the Atlantic the scale can be a little different. But our US colleagues work every bit as hard at managing the talent and trying to build a pipeline for the future. The nature and the quality of the work and institutional ambition are flagged up by Fritz Schroeder, the Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations at Johns Hopkins University, for instance. They’re part of the hum that draws gifted fundraisers to a high-performance fundraising machine at full throttle. If you fancy joining his team of 475 (yes, 475), study this.

CASE Europe is marking the second anniversary of “An Emerging Profession” with its first ever seminar on Strategic Talent Management, led by two of those who contributed to the review, Lyndsay Lewis and Edith Prak. It’s a topic that will now be with us indefinitely.