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Fundraising jobs: an introduction

A guide to the different types of fundraising jobs required by charities and what skills you need to do them.

Introduction to fundraising jobs

If you are contemplating a career change and would like a role that is personally rewarding and contributes to the community, you may want to consider a charity fundraising job. KnowHow spoke with TPP Not for Profit, third sector recruitment specialists, about the best way to start a fundraising career.

What is fundraising?

Fundraising staff play an essential role in any charity. Charities would simply not function without committed and innovative fundraisers. 

Fundraisers are responsible for meeting donation targets by approaching trusts, corporations, statutory bodies, major donors and private individuals, as well as organising money-raising events.

In larger charities, roles are likely to be specialised, targeting one particular source of income. In smaller charities, a fundraiser may cover several or all donation sources.

Fundraisers also work with individuals, communities, businesses and charitable trusts to raise awareness of the charity's work, aims and goals. Ultimately, their job is to increase the contributions of those individuals and groups by building relationships and exploring new fundraising techniques and ideas.

Building a career in fundraising

Fundraising is similar to marketing and sales, so individuals with this background should have relevant transferable skills. It is a highly competitive field, so volunteering as a fundraiser for a charity is a great way to help get your foot in the door and may even result in a temporary or permanent job within that organisation.

What makes a good fundraiser?

Here is summary of skills required to be a successful fundraiser.

  • Good communication skills: both verbal and written. Writing creative, persuasive, concise and articulate copy will prove effective in persuading people to give. Experience of writing online copy is also becoming increasingly important.
  • Ability to research opportunities using the internet, phone, CD-ROMs and library resources.
  • Database and IT skills: managing information is crucial, as the profiles of donors, companies and trusts need to be recorded on a database, as well as a record of all communications, names of contacts, and their criteria for giving.
  • Organisational skills: an ability to manage a number of things at once is vital, as fundraising is a fast-paced and challenging role.
  • Budgeting: all fundraisers are likely to look after their own budget.
  • Relationship building: to encourage a long-term commitment to funding.
  • Presentation skills: to schools, local companies, churches, etc.
  • Account handling: servicing a donor, ensuring they are happy with their donation scheme and are kept well informed of progress and success.
  • Opportunism: the ability to spot a potential relationship and act upon it.
  • People management: good relations with volunteers are vital. Being able to support and motivate volunteers is necessary to ensure they are happy and effective.
  • Direct marketing experience: a popular marketing tool. Experience of marketing via social networking websites is also useful.
  • Enthusiasm and commitment: you must really believe and be committed to the cause you are addressing.

Day-to-day fundraising

The main streams of income generation can be split into:

  • corporate fundraising
  • trust, foundation and statutory fundraising
  • major donor fundraising
  • legacy fundraising
  • events fundraising
  • community fundraising
  • direct marketing/individual giving.

Corporate fundraising

Corporate fundraising involves raising income from the corporate sector, specifically through large-scale integrated ‘Charity of the Year’ partnerships, employee fundraising and volunteering, payroll giving and CRM (cause-related marketing) campaigns.

Corporate fundraisers will be expected to build relationships with relevant corporate bodies and produce compelling bids and deliver pitches to win new corporate sponsorship income. They therefore need to be outgoing and good communicators.

Trust, foundation and statutory fundraising

These fundraisers are responsible for income generated through detailed written applications to grant-making trusts, foundations and statutory funders (Government).

Such roles involve a high level of research and a deep understanding of specific programmes or services provided by the charity. Fundraisers are required to develop and nurture relationships with funders through regular reporting and feedback on income investment. A high level of attention to detail is required for these roles.

Major donor fundraising

Major donor fundraisers generate income through the identification and cultivation of high net worth individuals who have an affiliation or personal interest in the charity’s cause.

These fundraisers match prospects to relevant projects and strategically plan the level and most effective form of approach to engage appropriate prospects and donors on a one to one tailored basis and develop strong personal relationships.  Employers look for enthusiastic, articulate and appealing characters to fill these roles.

Legacy fundraising

Legacy fundraising Involves an in-memorandum donation from lifelong supporters of the charity. Fundraisers can nurture and develop face-to-face relationships with individuals or ask their supporters to consider leaving a bequest gift in their will. They may approach supporters through mailings or adverts.

Legacy fundraisers also manage a wide range of external relationships including solicitors, will executors, the family of the deceased, probate offices and co-beneficiaries.

Events fundraising

Fundraising events range widely from fetes and celebrity galas through to sponsored sports and running events, challenge and overseas treks, entertainments, auctions and fashion shows. Such events are organised to raise money and awareness of the cause, often building contacts and supporter networks for the charities involved.

Events fundraisers usually require experience of working in an events department within a charity and must be able to manage limited budgets in order to successfully meet income targets. They need to be able to balance working on different projects, and need to be able to meet and greet potential donors at the events.

Community fundraising

Fundraisers in the community ensure that fundraising activity is implemented and managed locally - usually in line with a charity’s national and regional strategy.

They support and develop volunteer networks and fundraising groups across their local area, ensuring that fundraising events, activities and collections run effectively and are marketed and supported in the community.

Direct marketing/individual giving

Charities will use various methods of direct marketing including face-to-face, door-to-door, telemarketing, online and direct mail to recruit, acquire, retain and develop income from individual one-off and regular givers.

These fundraisers usually have direct marketing experience and work closely with agencies to deliver direct marketing campaigns and utilise supporter databases for reporting and data analysis.  They need to be able to balance being data-literate with generating creative and inspirational ideas.

Apply for fundraising jobs

Fundraising is a highly competitive field, so you need to plan before making the move. Get as much experience as you can, talk to other fundraisers wherever possible and learn about your chosen field.

See our find a new non profit job page for links to sites that advertise vacancies.

When you're ready to start applying for fundraising jobs make sure you've researched the organisations you are applying to and their causes. Think about how you would go about persuading someone to donate money to them. Get access to their fundraising materials (website, newsletters, direct mail etc) so you can understand the way they work. Be sure to include something about this in your application to show that you have thought about and care about the cause. (It is important that you do care, rather than just say you do. If you don't care about donkeys, will you really be any good at raising money for them?)

Think about how you demonstrate the skills listed above and learn as much as you can about how the fundraising methods work. You can find out more from our funding and income section.

If you do decide to move into fundraising, it can be an extremely rewarding and personally satisfying career. Good luck!

For experienced fundraisers

If you've already got experience as a fundraiser and are looking for the best way to progress your career, TPP Not for Profit can offer help and advice, as well as a wide variety of fundraising roles. Vists TPP's website for more information.

Contact them on for further details.

Page last edited Jun 30, 2014

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