12 digital fundraising trends for 2012 #12 Digital Fundraising Staff Shortages

Over the last few weeks I’ve been posting about some of the key trends I think are going to be important for digital fundraising over the next year. I’ve covered some interesting but as yet pretty nascent technology trends related to augmented reality and contactless payments; some brass tacks, back to basics trends relating to website design and email; and a couple of planning trends related to how Social Media is being viewed by fundraisers and the shift towards more integrated digital planning.

For the last in my 12 digital fundraising trends posts I’m going to leave the technology and theory behind and put the focus on the one crucial resource that will make the difference between your digital fundraising flying or not in 2012 – and that’s the people you have on your team who can actually make it all happen.

One of the most common questions I get asked when discussing digital fundraising is whether I know of any good digital fundraisers looking for a job. No surprise, given that (as shown in the chart above) the recent Third Sector State of the Sector survey identified ‘Web/Digital Media’ skills as those second most in short supply after ‘Fundraising’. Put together ‘Digital’ and ‘Fundraising’ and you’ve got an even worse supply/demand imbalance

In years to come, applying digital communications in support of fundraising will be built-into many fundraisers roles, but right now we haven’t reached that point and organisations are still typically reliant on specialists supporting the rest of the team when they need to employ digital activity. However, the number of experienced digital fundraising specialists around simply isn’t nearly enough to match the scale of the opportunity presented and the ambitions of most organisations in this area.

Agencies and Consultancies can help-out at key times such as strategic planning and website or campaign development, but you can’t just outsource every aspect of your digital fundraising and supporter engagement if you’re going to maximise on the benefits available for your whole organisation. Specialist suppliers are best managed by someone who really understands the areas they’re working on and who can truly own and guide their projects to successful completion – there’s just no escaping that. Hence the growing challenge for any organisation looking to capitalise on digital fundraising – of finding the right people to employ as their in-house specialists. Plus, of course, the growing opportunity for good fundraisers – to really get to grips with digital fundraising and supporter engagement as a key focus as they develop their career.

Whether you’re on the recruiting-side or the candidate-side, here are some thoughts to help you come-out on top of this trend…

Tips for Fundraising Managers looking to recruit digital fundraisers

  • Be very clear and realistic about just what type of person you need. Do you need a clever technical person who can do it all, from website delivery to reporting? Or do you need someone who can work with the digital team in the Communications Department to help ensure that your fundraisers can make best use of the digital opportunities available?
  • Talk to your peers to learn about how they’re structuring and resourcing their teams to make best use of digital. You’re probably all in the same boat, so having the opportunity to share ideas and experiences should help you all clarify your approaches
  • Don’t always assume that a commercial digital marketer will be a better choice than a nonprofit person. They may well be, especially if they have relevant hands-on campaign management experience. But they will need to be willing to augment this with learning about how fundraising works, how nonprofit organisations work, and how to be creative with less budget than they may have been used to spending
  • Don’t rule-out in-house candidates with the interest and aptitude but lacking experience. But if you do go down this route then take it very seriously and set expectations accordingly. With a clear Job Description and Objectives; a career development roadmap showing how and when they will gain the specialist experience they need; and budget to invest in training that gives them a good general understanding of all areas of fundraising they will need to support as well as any technical skills required
  • Consider getting help when interviewing. A little digital knowledge can go a long way when well presented at interview, and if you’re not all that up to speed on digital (after all, that’s why you’re recruiting) you might not be able to separate actual experience from ambition. See if you can ‘borrow’ an experienced digital marketer or fundraiser from another organisation for key interviews to give you a expert eye on candidates

Tips for Fundraisers looking to develop digitally

  • Balance your interest in all things digital with a rounded awareness of the full fundraising mix. Ideally get yourself the Institute of Fundraising Diploma (or whatever equivalent exists in your country) as a formal foundation on which you can build your digital skills and experience
  • Don’t just fake it. If you are really interested in a career as a digital fundraiser then you’ll need to put real effort into properly understanding the full digital marketing mix as well as how to address the wider organisational and technical issues that you’re likely to face. It’s not all Tweeting and Facebook! You’ll need to be a confident fundraiser, comfortable with data interpretation, and also good with all sorts of people if you’re going to make a great digital fundraiser
  • Make the effort to get connected with other digital fundraisers – in real life as well as online. There is lots to be learned through Twitter and Blogs, but you will also benefit massively from actually getting out to meet others working in this fascinating field. Conferences can be a good place to learn and network, but can be a bit intimidating until you get to know some people. A good alternative might be something like the regular NFP Tweetups or the @digitalFRforum which are far more informal gatherings where you can learn from case study presentations as well as meeting others from across the sector

This is the last of twelve posts on trends I think will prove to be important for digital fundraising in 2012. You can find the previous trend post, on Properly Joined-up Digital Planning, here.


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