What Fundraisers Do
Non-profit organizations get funding to operate from a variety of sources, including government grants, donations, and campaigns or events organized by their fundraising team. Fundraisers create campaigns and events, as well as generate awareness for their cause, in order to generate the capital their organization needs to operate and grow.
Who would enjoy a career in Fundraising?
Fundraisers must be passionate about the cause they serve. In addition to this, having a background in marketing, communications, sales or journalism may help. Other skills, such as grant writing, research, and event planning are useful too. It’s an ideal career for someone who is civically-minded, detail-oriented, and a creative thinker, though a basic understanding of the laws that govern nonprofits is also necessary.
Who mightn't like the career?
The career can be a challenge due to disconnects between the organization’s board and fundraising team. Oftentimes, high-level fundraisers feel they cannot get the board to provide enough support for the fundraising team’s ongoing needs. A big part of the role can include rejection when seeking funds, so those who aren’t resilient may find the role challenging. Moreover, hiring support staff can be difficult from the aspect of getting board buy-in as well as lack of applicants who possess all the necessary skills. Due to these issues, it’s not a good career path for someone who doesn’t have business, sales, management, and leadership skills as well.
Although there are some universities that offer degrees specific to fundraising, the vast majority of people who get into the field have studied communications, English, journalism, or business. For more information, read “Interested in a Fundraising Job? What You Should Know” and “Beginning a Career in Non-Profit Fund-Raising.”
It’s important to understand the organization, including its values and goals, before interviewing. Having a background that includes prior fundraising, development, or volunteer work can also help.
Moving into Fundraising from another career
Historically, people who have gotten into fundraising and development have unintentionally slid into the position. In other words, they had some or all the necessary skills, such as communication and business, and happened upon a pet project or organization they cared about that needed help. It can be an attractive job for people with any type of community work, social, giving, or service-type background. For more information, see “17 Tips to Help You Make the Transition from Profit to Nonprofit.”
Fundraiser / Support
Role: There is no linear career path for fundraising and development. While there is a number of support roles, ranging from grant writer to researcher and social media coordinator, none of these is necessarily a path to being a development director. Moreover, some non-profits refer to anyone in a fundraising role as a fundraiser, even if the person is the highest-level individual on the fundraising team, while others have “director of development” spot for the department’s head. When a senior-level position is utilized by an organization, all those under it carry out the director’s instructions. When no senior-level is designated, a fundraiser will carry out the duties of a director as well.
In general, fundraisers create campaigns to raise awareness for what the organization does, as well as what its needs are in order to continue operating. They also plan events and maintain donor lists to keep potential donors engaged.
Director of Development
Role: A director creates plans to ensure the nonprofit has the funds necessary to carry out operations. This includes a wide variety of fundraising activities, such as grants, hosting charitable events, running annual giving campaigns, and creating awareness about the need for major gifts and planned giving. They organize volunteers and junior staffers, reach out to potential donors, and may also handle some of the organization’s branding and marketing efforts. Additionally, the director is tasked with working with the board to establish goals and ensure that the fundraising team has the resources it needs to be successful.
Some travel is occasionally necessary, depending on the area the nonprofit serves as well as where its donor base resides.
Fundraiser: Data from PayScale indicates that base salaries average USD $49,761 in the United States, ₤21,806 in the United Kingdom, CAD$50,868 in Canada, and AU$62,000 in Australia.
Director of Development: USD$62,000, £60,000, and CAD$66,213, and AU$128,055.
Profit sharing, and commission are sometimes part of a fundraiser’s total take-home pay, and can double the salary in some cases.
Why Fundraisers move on
Securing resources for a charity or non-profit can be incredibly rewarding. Nevertheless, fundraising is sometimes referred to as a “revolving door,” because top-level fundraisers may become dissatisfied with their jobs due to difficulty getting specific resources and buy-in from boards and executives. Finding qualified support staff adds to the challenges.
According to one survey, about half of all top-level fundraisers planned to quit their jobs within two years and 40% planned to leave fundraising altogether. Fundraisers build a variety of skills including sales, communication, negotiation, planning and project management which can be transferable to other career paths such as sales, event planning, account management, recruitment and public relations. Many people find alternative nonprofit careers within their skillset. For example, blogger Bethany Lang writes about her transition from fundraising to web development for nonprofits, while others draw upon their degrees to move back into the for-profit sector.