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Searching for a Unicorn

April 6, 2017


In recent conversations with some of our clients we’ve asked (out of curiosity) why they hired us rather than an internal staff person?


And repeatedly we have heard the following:


* We need fundraising and event expertise

* We need experienced support

* Our budget doesn’t support a full-time staff member


The trifactor of those needs, leads so many organizations to begin searching for a Unicorn.


It all starts when the organization creates the job description. It usually requires a combination of skill sets (fundraising, events, volunteer management, sponsorship, project management, budget planning, stewardship, and so on). All those skills combined, creates a position which is meant for a seasoned and experienced fundraising professional. With budget limitations, organizations are only able to offer a small salary; forcing them to look for someone who doesn’t exist because the skill set, experience level and pay do not match. Hence why we say – Searching for a Unicorn.


In this search, organizations end up losing precious time, becoming frustrated with their prospects, lower their expectations and in an act of desperation hire the wrong person who then cannot properly complete their tasks (through no fault of their own, but rather they just haven’t developed those skills yet). And the result? We see this job re-posted a year later. And the cycle continues.

Organizations can find what they are looking for when they think outside the box and consider the following:


1. Scale back some of the tasks. Take a hard look at what must be completed and streamline the role to minimize the skill set. Work with your new hire to train them and add experience to their resume building their skill set before adding more to their role. By scaling down these tasks and waiting until your new hire develops, you are making the job expectations and timelines more attainable for a less experienced staff person.


2. Consider off-loading some tasks to senior volunteers and board members. Relationship building and administrative tasks could be perfect for eager volunteers, allowing you to focus the role more on strategy and planning for that experienced candidate you are looking for. In addition, offer the role as a part-time position with the same rate of pay to attract a more qualified candidate who is being paid more for the hours they work.


3. And finally, when you cannot change tasks, experience required or pay level we suggest you hire an outside firm (like Our Forté – for example) who are experienced fundraising and event professionals and have a different range of skill sets within their team. Companies like ours, allow organizations to concentrate on relationship building while we manage the fundraising programs and events and ensure maximum funds are raised in a more efficient and strategic approach. Yes, we work virtually, but this combined with our experience makes us more efficient. Taking less time to accomplish tasks it would take a junior person to complete. This option is also more cost effective with no overhead costs, sick time, vacation time, benefits and so on.


It may not have been your first choice, but hiring a company who is experienced in charity work and producing amazing events with strong sponsorship and fundraising initiatives may just be the better choice!


So… if your organization seems to always be facing turn-over or hiring the wrong person in search of that allusive Unicorn, it may be time to realize that Unicorn just doesn’t exist! But by re-evaluating your expectations and thinking outside the box, we believe you can find a solution to your Unicorn problem and ultimately raise more money for your organization and those it serves in the community.

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