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Recruiting Fundraisers in the Creative Sector

In the last year, Creative Careers has seen an increase in new appointments across diverse roles in the arts and cultural sector, however, one area in particular is seeing a significant uplift – arts and cultural organisations are increasingly approaching Creative Careers to help them source philanthropy and development staff to drive their fundraising programmes.

We talk to Mary O’Kennedy, Director at Creative Careers, about this growing trend. Mary has almost 20 years’ experience of consulting to and fundraising for the not-for-profit sector… Following several in-house fundraising roles she established O’Kennedy Consulting in 2002, and in 2014 co-founded Charity Careers Ireland – a specialist executive search services for the not-for-profit sector. In 2016, Mary and Bruce Tait acquired Creative Careers to expand the service from the original jobs board to include an interactive advertising platform and bespoke Executive Search service.


Mary, why do you think there is a rise in the number of creative and cultural organisations recruiting Fundraising and Development staff?

State funding across the not-for-profit sector declined during the economic downturn, which meant that there was a need to diversify income streams. Many charitable organisations, including those in the arts and cultural sector, started looking more seriously at building philanthropic income. Many now raise well in excess of 50% of their revenue from  philanthropic funding and any organisation in this position should have at least one member of staff focused on fundraising. Those who traditionally received upwards of 80% from the State are now finding themselves needing to engage with a diverse group of donors from corporate partners and foundations to individual supporters. Support and resource organisations within the sector are also helping. In 2012, the Arts Council made a concerted effort to revitalize the culture of private giving in the arts in Ireland through its RAISE programme. More recently, Business to Arts initiated Fundraising Fellowships which were supported by Dublin City Council. Business to Arts continue to commission of annual reports on private investment in the Irish Arts sector.

While many arts and creative organisations have already hired their first Development or Fundraising Officer, others may still be cautious. How can organisations make sure that investing in a fundraiser will pay off?

Trustees and senior management of charities need to understand that in order to grow their income and in turn their impact they have to invest in key resources, including staff. With regards to fundraising, that means hiring people with experience of donor engagement. If an organisation has never fundraised before, they’ll need to allow at least six months before they start seeing a return on their investment, and at least twelve months before they start seeing significant new income sources.

The organisations that see the best uptake in donor support are those who are really clear about what the money is for. The most important thing is having a strong and impactful Case for Support. If you’re able to express clearly your need for support and where donor’s money will go, you’re likely to get a higher return. A budget deficit, on the other hand, is not a good case for support.

The Board and senior management team (SMT) also need to be engaged. No matter how good your new recruit is, if the Board and SMT aren’t invested in the fundraising strategy, then it’s really not wise to recruit for the position. But with a strong case for financial support and with the buy-in of the organisational leadership you can achieve great things!

Hiring a member of staff or development team must be costly. What should organisations expect to pay to hire good people?

For a Development Executive/Assistant/Officer – entry level – depending on the size, scale, and fundraising targets, you’re looking at a range between €25,000 and €35,000 for someone who can help develop a Friends programme or support community engagement or assist senior staff. Middle management will cost between €35,000 and €55,000. And Directors or Heads of Development would expect to be paid anything from €60,000 to €80,000 plus, particularly if they’re in charge of leading a capital development project.

If you’re looking to attract strategic or high level donors – people who see themselves more as investors – then you’ll need to hire a Head or Director of Development. The same would be true if you want to engage with corporations, trusts, etc.

Creative Careers has seen organisation looking to recruit candidates with job titles such as ‘Fundraising Executive’, ‘Development Officer’, and ‘Individual Giving Manager’. What do the different titles actually mean or is there a difference?

Arts and cultural organisations, and also educational institutions, particularly at third-level, have tended to steer away from the word ‘fundraising’. Traditionally, they’ve talked about ‘philanthropy’. Back when I was working in the Educational Trust at DCU, we didn’t have any ‘fundraisers’, although we were the fundraising entity for the University, we had ‘Development Officers’, ‘Development Managers’, and a ‘Director of Development’. In reality, there is no real difference. But certainly in my experience in the arts and cultural sector, and the broader creative sector, ‘development’ is a much more common term. Possibly it’s felt to be softer than fundraising. But if you’re being really honest about what you want the role to fulfil, then yes – it is fundraising, or at the very least ‘donor engagement’.

Is fundraising the better word then, because you’re more likely to attract people who are clear that it’s a definite part of the remit?

Not necessarily. You just need to be very clear in the job spec that the role will involve fundraising, so don’t over couch it in the language for the person you’re looking to appoint – you should give them the specific fundraising targets within the job spec. Also, there can be another challenge on occasion with the word ‘development’ in that in a number of organisations it doesn’t actually mean fundraising at all – it could actually mean programme development. So you need to be very clear on that. Titles like ‘Individual Giving Manager’ or ‘Donor Development Manager’ are very useful. Or ‘Corporate Partnership Executive’ or ‘Head of Corporate Engagement’ are equally workable as they’re very specific as to what the role entails. Organisations are also beginning to look at legacies in a bigger way so a ‘Legacy Promotion Officer’ is someone who is dealing with people who might consider leaving a legacy to an arts or cultural organisation that they care about.

What’s involved in the job and how can management set realistic goals for their new staff? Or should prospective fundraisers be setting their own goals and targets?

It all goes back to the Case for Support. It’s totally down to what the organisation has decided in its strategic plan; what it wants to achieve and how much money needs to be raised from donors. Targets would normally be agreed before the new fundraising staff are put in place. Fundraisers generally don’t set their own fundraising targets; however, they may set the key avenues or approaches, particularly at a senior level. So if you’re recruiting somebody as a Director of Development, and they’re going in to manage a capital campaign, let’s say a national cultural institution needs to raise €3m or €4m, your Director of Development may help you work out the best routes or avenues to raising your targets, for example 40% corporate, 50% individuals, 10% trusts. They wouldn’t be setting the overall target but they could define the approach to raising the target.

What qualities, qualifications and experience should HR managers be looking for from prospective fundraising or development staff?

If you’re looking to actively engage people then you have to actually like people! Fundraising is not, and has never been, rocket science. There is a certain skillset involved in understanding and determining the motivations of donors at various levels. You need someone you feel can competently and confidently champion your cause to potential donors. Heads of Development tend to be people who are confident and outgoing for the most part. This is perhaps less important for someone involved in donor research or grant applications.

You need somebody who understands what a good return on investment is. The other thing to understand is systems, governance and data protection, which is becoming increasingly important. In general, I find the best fundraisers are people who care about the cause they’re raising funds for – there are exceptions of course but that’s my experience.

Can internal staff be developed or trained into the role of fundraiser?

If you have someone in your organisation who doesn’t currently work in fundraising, but who cares about the organisation and its mission, and who knows the organisation well, then they could potentially be trained into the role. There are training courses that people can attend on specific fundraising areas. In Ireland we have courses such as those run by Charities Institute Ireland and The Wheel. The Institute of Fundraising in the UK offers a wider range of courses and there’s also an annual International Fundraising Congress in Holland every October. New fundraisers in the arts and cultural should also try to engage with network groups, such as the Development Managers’ Forum organised through Business to Arts.