CDE project 11f face to face: sec­tion 4 — recruit­ment and training

Written by
The Commission on the Donor Experience
March 27, 2017

The relationship that you hope to build with your future donors begins with the recruitment of the fundraisers that will join your in-house team or your external specialist agency. If these individuals are not invested in in the correct way, then you can’t expect the relationship to be strong from the start. The face to face model that has developed since the 1990s in the UK has generally seen a lack of investment in the individuals that we recruit. This can be seen from starting salaries for street fundraisers (these have actually dropped in some cases since 1999, when a London-based face to face fundraiser could earn £9 per hour as a starting wage, to the current trend of paying just £7-£8 per hour. We also have seen the shift in a full 8-hour day being paid including breaks, to a general acceptance of an 8-9 hour working day, only being rewarded with a 7-hour paid shift). In agencies this lack of investment needs to be re-examined. Is it right that owners and directors look to pull sizeable dividends out of the business each year, when it may be better to invest more back in to the product that they deliver? 

Many agencies pride themselves on the strength of their brand, and word of mouth spreads quickly amongst the pool of students and others looking for work over the summer break, when traditionally agencies’ capacity it is at its peak. If you can develop a reputation and identity that is supportive of fundraisers’ personal development and deliver on what you promise whilst recruiting them, then your retention of staff on a full-time basis can rise, alongside a considerable drop in the cost of recruiting staff. Where this culture is developed well, the need to recruit new starters falls, and so can break the “hire and fire” culture. This is where recruiters are recruited at as a low cost as possible and then those who don’t perform as quickly sacked. It can also improve the quality of donor retention too, as fundraisers are better trained and motivated.

Within an agency, it can be a delicate balance between a culture that retains a loyalty to the agency and representing the brand of the charities that are providing you their business. Putting the cause(s) first will be of mutual benefit to your company and its clients. And happy clients will speak the loudest in terms of repeat business.

How can you ensure only those fundraisers with good intentions start working? How can you create a pay structure that rewards those who do a good job, recruit loyal supporters, and don’t act as mavericks that can jeopardise the future of the face to face fundraising?

It will pay you to invest both money and time in getting good staff. You want to create the right team culture then to find personalities that fit. Then you need to train them carefully. You need to create a strong career path, and offer supportive training modules. Currently the majority of new starters will last between 3-6 weeks, before deciding the job is not for them. F2F fundraisers often talk about inadequate quality in the team leaders who manage them and point out that pressure to recruit high volumes of new supporters often transfers on to potential supporters.

By offering a more supportive model for both team leaders/managers and a better quality of training, recruiting the right person for the role becomes a more attractive proposition both for the candidate and the cause. Some agencies and charities give their new recruits a very clear understanding of the targets and training that they will receive from the start. 

One agency that has worked very closely with their charity partner is Wesser. They have now been fundraising door to door with St John Ambulance for almost 20 years. Together they have developed a special module to safeguard vulnerable individuals when fundraising. They require all candidates to read this before attending their interview. At the end of the module all candidates take an online test, which helps the agency to screen candidates before interviews and make sure that those that get through are already aware of the issues surrounding this activity. It also provides an audit trail to prove that all fundraisers are trained in the topic, and are not recruited for this work if they do not pass. Initial training is then split across two full days, one of which is spent on further safeguarding, whistleblowing policies, social media policies and HR policies. The second day is spent focussing purely on the charity, and workshopping the charity information in to pitches/spiels/presentations. Further training is then given throughout the fundraisers employment. There is a team leader development program in place, to bring through new leaders. These are identified through a period of 4-6 months and fundraiser who have a low level of donor attrition are prioritised. 

The Oxfam in-house team, offers split bite size training modules over the first month. Additionally, there is a career pathway for face to face staff, which allows them to spend time working with staff across Oxfam. 

By reducing the information overload for all news recruits, and breaking training down into modules, fundraisers are given more insight in to how they fit in to the world of fundraising within the charities teams. They are given context on how the supporters that they recruit will be stewarded and the journey that charities want supporters to embark on through their interaction with them.

St John Ambulance and the British Red Cross have issued press releases over the past few years, promoting the fact that that their face to face teams are trained in first aid, and so are providing the communities in which they work, with more people equipped with the skills to save a life. A Wesser door to door fundraiser for St John Ambulance hit the local headlines in a positive way thanks to some collaborative PR:

In these cases, this level of personal development has seen the retention of fundraisers increase, and has driven down the need to constantly recruits. On average the cost of recruiting a new start is between £800 to £1,000. Reducing this cost and reinvesting it in training, development or salaries of the fundraisers would be more beneficial.

This type of approach towards the employment, training and development of staff can only be a good thing for the sector. It will help to build a greater sense of why good face to face fundraisers feel proud of what they do, and certainly reduce the risk, and complete lack of support that produces articles like this one:

Click on the image below to view project 11f in full - PDF format.

About the author: The Commission on the Donor Experience

The CDE has one simple ideal – to place donors at the heart of fundraising. The aim of the CDE is to support the transformation of fundraising, to change the culture to a truly consistent donor-based approach to raising money. It is based on evidence drawn from first hand insight of best practice. By identifying best practice and capturing examples, we will enable these to be shared and brought into common use.

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