Who Is a Fundraiser?
I constantly write blog posts for audiences with vast experience as nonprofit pros. As I was sitting at my computer recently, it occurred to me that many individuals who do not work in our profession read a variety of these blog posts. They want to learn more about the profession, so they can determine if they want to work as fundraising professionals. Ironically, when I was on LinkedIn that same day, I received a notice that a colleague recently accepted a job as a fundraising professional at a university. That job congratulation notice surprised me because this person was making a major career switch into our profession. I wish him well as he will be on a deep learning curve. This blog post is especially dedicated to those that want to learn more about our profession and are thinking of a career switch into the nonprofit arena.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the following facts applied to the term “fundraiser”:
• Fundraisers organize events and campaigns to raise money and other donations for an organization.
• Fundraisers work primarily for nonprofit organizations and work during regular business hours plus additional hours to meet deadlines.
• Fundraisers typically need a bachelor’s degree and strong communication and organizational skills.
• The median annual wage for fundraisers was $52,970 in May 2015.
Employment for fundraisers is projected to grow nine percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations.
Typical fundraiser duties include:
- Research prospective donors
- Create a strong fundraising message to potential donors
- Identify and contact potential donors
- Use online platforms, such as crowdsourcing, to raise donations
- Organize a campaign or event to solicit donations
- Maintain records of donor information
- Evaluate the success of fundraising events
- Train volunteers in fundraising procedures and practice
- Ensure that all legal reporting requirements are satisfied
Types of fundraisers include major-gifts fundraisers, planned-giving fundraisers, direct-mailing fundraisers, events fundraisers, annual campaign fundraisers and capital-campaign fundraisers.
The industries that employed the most fundraisers were religious, educational and social assistance related. Nearly one in five fundraisers worked part time in 2014.
Employers generally prefer candidates who have studied public relations, journalism, communications, English or business. Employers also encourage internships, volunteerism and previous work experiences relating to face-to-face interaction or over-the-phone interaction with potential donors. Important qualities to have in this business include communication skills, detail oriented skills, leadership skills and organizational skills.
Gail Perry provides excellent insight on attributes needed for fundraising success. Her 10 basic fundamentals for fundraising success are:
1. Success in fund development is a long-term project. It takes an investment over time. It means you cannot expect a fundraiser to come in out of the blue and immediately work miracles.
2. There is a significant ROI in fundraising that many people do not understand. This means that investing one dollar in fundraising will probably yield three to four dollars back.
3. Different fundraising strategies have different paybacks. This means when you invest in major gifts staff then you will probably get about a 10 to one return on your investment.
4. Fundraising is a highly technical specialized business. This means it is important to believe the fundraising staffer regarding what strategies work best.
5. Fundraising success requires help and support from everyone in the organization. This means that if the whole organization doesn’t embrace and support fund development, your results will really suffer.
6. Success in fund development requires consistency. This means that if the position of development director is vacant for any length of time, you are losing serious ground by not being in front of your donors.
7. “Post-recession” donors have changed in their expectations from nonprofits they support. This means that donors don’t want to give to the black hole of unrestricted. You will raise more money if you let them restrict their gifts.
8. Retaining your current donors is more important financially than finding new donors. This means that the real high dollar opportunity is to work on retaining your current donors. You will have higher fundraising returns if you do.
9. Communications to our donors are far more important than they use to be. This means that your communications to donors have everything to do with whether they give again.
10. Your fundraising person is worth more to you than you may think. This means that you might want to consider what will cost you more: a salary raise to keep your fundraiser or the hit that your fundraising program will take?
Joe Garecht writes that fear in face-to-face of fundraising is understandable. He notes that to succeed, fundraisers should study the basics of fundraising, such as how to make the “ask.” Study what works and don’t forget to practice. Fundraising is certainly not easy and it is not for everybody. If you are interested in this career, talk to seasoned pros in the business. They will gladly give you advice, counsel and guidance. That is what we do in the nonprofit sector.
Who is a fundraiser? It is a special type of individual that understands their unique career role. They are the bridge between those that have resources and those that need resources. Fundraisers know that they do not have a job. They have a career that is noble, just and relevant.
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” — Winston Churchill
We have the pleasure of giving from ourselves and encouraging others to give. I am glad I am a fundraiser.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last nine years and has had the CFRE designation for the last 25 years. He has also been a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals for over 35 years. He received his doctorate from West Virginia University with an emphasis in philanthropy, masters from Marshall University with an emphasis on resource development and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with emphasis in marketing/management. Currently he is executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org.