Business raided for financial expertise

October 29, 2004

Universities are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit the fundraising specialists they need to help swell their coffers from external sources.

Aston and York universities are among those that have had to look abroad or to employ headhunters to recruit the expertise to lead development offices.

Aston has created a new post of director of advancement, recruiting Brian Porter, a development specialist, from the Canadian higher education sector, at the beginning of October. Under his guidance, Aston is building a fundraising team from scratch. But there is a dearth of experienced people in the UK, he said.

As a result, universities are looking to train their own staff or hire people from the corporate sector with strong comparable skills, who can be trained in fundraising techniques.

York advertised for a development director in The Times Higher last April but failed to fill the position. It has turned to a headhunting firm to help find a suitable candidate, and plans to advertise the post again.

Hilary Layton, York's director of communications, said: "There are not enough leading fundraisers to go around. There are too many people looking and too few suitable candidates.

She added: "I think the market has to grow a lot and the profession needs to mature."

Alex Acland, of headhunting firm Odgers, Ray and Berndtson, said that fundraising positions were difficult to fill. "Universities need to develop more innovative remuneration packages to secure the talents of the best fundraisers."

Birmingham University, which has had a development office for three years, is looking to appoint a new director.

Nick Blinco, acting director, said that for less senior positions, universities tend to employ people with transferable skills and train them up themselves.

In May, the Higher Education Endowment Task Force, chaired by Eric Thomas, vice-chancellor of Bristol University, recommended that universities be more professional about fundraising. He called on the Government to encourage charitable donations through tax breaks.

University College London and Cambridge University are gearing up for major fundraising campaigns. UCL has so far managed to recruit 17 people for its campaign but is struggling to get more.

Aberdeen University has hired M&C Saatchi, the advertising agency in New York, to market its ambitious fundraising drive to raise £150 million by the end of the decade.


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