Partly because there is no college degree in prospect research. High school kids don’t think “Hey! I’m going to be a prospect researcher when I grow up!” Not because it’s not desirable, but because they just don’t know prospect research as a career choice exists.
Also because we as a profession don’t set up booths at career fairs – even at schools of library science where we’d be a shoe-in for interested candidates. We’re not licensed or certified professionally.
Sure, those things would help, but they’re expensive and labor intensive. As a profession we just don’t have the money, the mandate, or the manpower yet.
And speaking of which, compared to most other professions, there really just aren’t that many of us that do prospect research, relationship management or analytics full time. Maybe six or seven thousand worldwide. Compare that with the number of nonprofits in the US alone (1.5 million). Or the number of members of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (30,000).
We’re a really small niche.
So it’s not news that recruiting and hiring talented, experienced researchers can be difficult.
When you need to fill a new position and you’re not getting any applicants from the usual channels, what else can you do?
Just like when we’re trying to find new donors, it pays to be proactive when looking for research professionals. The talented ones generally aren’t looking for a new job; if their supervisors are smart, they’re being appreciated monetarily and are kept intellectually stimulated where they are. (Fortunately for you, that’s not always the case).
Whatever the situation, if the talent isn’t coming to you, you have to go to the talent.
- Be where the researchers gather. I got my second job because a director of development went to a CASE research conference that I also attended. We struck up a great conversation and six months later I got a call asking if I was interested in applying for a newly-created job. (A word to researchers who are passively looking – be sure to chat with the fundraisers that show up at research conferences!).
- Talk to trusted researchers you know and ask them to help spread the news. What are the top three best things about the job you have open? Flexible hours? Great salary? Free concerts? Tuition reimbursement? Whatever those things are, work the word-of-mouth grapevine amongst your trusted researcher network by highlighting them.
- Sort through the APRA or local chapter directory. Many times people list their talents and interests on their online member profile, and you can filter on just the skills you need to find candidates nearby. Even if they’re not interested, they’ll be flattered you sought them out, and will usually pass the job details along to others they know.
- Use social media to advertise. We’ve always been savvy technologically, but prospect researchers are increasingly using social media like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to pass along news of job openings to colleagues.
- Hire a consultant or search firm to help you. If you’ve been searching for a candidate for too long and still haven’t filled the opening, maybe the job description needs to be re-tooled or given a reality check by someone who knows the field well. Research consultants may also know out-of-towners who are looking to move to the area or are ready for a new challenge but need a push.
What other tips do you have for recruiting new talent?
*A tip of the hat to Sofia Kelesidou for inspiring this blog post*