The other side of the coin – what charities are looking for when recruiting - Polly Symondson Recruitment
Polly Symondson Recruitment, PSR, Specialist Regional Recruitment for the Charity Sector, Cheltenham, UK
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The other side of the coin – what charities are looking for when recruiting

There is an ongoing discussion about how hard it is to recruit fundraising staff. I am not sure this is a new phenomenon as even before the pandemic finding great additions to a team was not easy.

There has been lot of comment, much of it very justified, on how charities need to look at what they are doing and adjust to changing times (and yes showing the salary is a basic requirement). However, not much has been said about how candidates can improve their chances of finding their next dream role.

Having been firmly on the recruiting side of the fence for the last year here are some of my thoughts on how candidates can widen their options.


Even if you are not actively looking to change roles we have all seen our dream job come up when we least expect it. Our CV is out of date and they want a covering letter just at a time when your major campaign is at a crucial point. So you let it pass.

The covering letter is your opportunity to really sell yourself so use a mind map to help streamline thoughts. Highlight key words on the job description and jot down where you might have relevant experience paid or voluntary. For example, managing people – not formally but if you can chair a PTA then you can do anything. Use your covering letter to show you have transferable skills. This is really important for those trying to get into our sector. You may not have formal event experience but did volunteer to organise a street party for 300 people so make sure you put it down.

Create an achievements file. As our careers progress we forget all the things we have achieved so keep it updated along with ‘what did I learn from this,?’ ‘what would I do differently?.’ As this file grows you will have a ready made source of material for the dreaded covering letter and for an interview

Inner Confidence.

I have seen candidates with too much and most with not enough. The latter are the most interesting to work with as you see them bloom and achieve things they did not think possible. If you know you are great at promoting your charity but struggle with saying positive things about yourself then maybe you need to find a coach to work with to help you find your voice. Or if you have found your voice but want to change roles, for example an events fundraiser who wants to get into philanthropy find a mentor in that area. Someone whose experience you can draw upon, question and who will challenge you to think outside your box. If there is not someone in your organisation then put an ask out on social media. There are plenty of people in the sector only too willing to help and when you get a chance to help pay it back.

Outer Image

Like and comment on social media posts for organisations you like and interest you. Write a blog. Be supportive of colleagues and causes, if you know something that can help then offer. This builds up a positive picture of you and widens your network who might just have a fabulous job to offer. Conversely, do not get drawn down a rabbit hole of negativity.

Be strategic

If there is an opportunity to speak to the hiring manager of a role you are interested in take it. If there is not one advertised then make contact and ask to speak to them. Ask them not just about the job on offer, but what makes their heart sing about working for this charity. If they struggle to answer, then maybe this organisation is not for you (or for them). If someone is offering you their precious time then take it and be prepared with questions.

What are your deal breakers? Work these out before you even start looking for new roles. Is it salary, working hours, working pattern, hybrid or fully remote, distance or time it takes to travel. Once you have identified these you can know what you can and cannot compromise on rather than being put on the spot. Even if a job is advertised as one thing use that call into the recruiter to see if there is any wriggle room. Could 2 days a week in the office turn into 3 a fortnight?

You have an interview lined up.

Fantastic! Remember an interview is a 2 way street. What do you need to know about this role to help you decide about role? If they have sent you a copy of their strategy, then read it and ask questions about how the role on offer has an impact on achieving it. Phrases like ambitious income targets, what do they actually look like.? The questions you ask will be illuminating for both sides.

You are offered the job

As my mum used to say ‘manners cost nothing’. If you are offered another job before an interview and take it then please let people know you are pulling out of the process. There is nothing to be embarrassed about.

If you change your mind after being offered a role, tell the recruiter. Other candidates may still be really interested in ‘their’ dream job.

If you sign a contract then please turn up on the first day (yes, really it has happened!).

It did not go your way

Take a deep breath and ask for feedback. It may not be forthcoming or be bland so probe. Where were the gaps?, What did you not evidence’? If you are really passionate about the organisation ask them to keep you in mind for something else. Add any feedback to your achievements file so you can prepare examples for the next time.

Thank people for their time whether you were successful or not. Recruitment is time consuming and a thank you goes a long way to brightening the day of those involved.


Treat your next job move as you would a donor. Why would someone want to invest (donate) in you? What impact will you make on their charity? Together how are you going to change the world?

Now go get that dream role.

Elizabeth Palfreman, Recruitment Partner