When you hear the word fundraising, you might automatically think of people shaking charity boxes outside Tesco, or your little brother asking you to sponsor him for sitting in a bath of baked beans on Red Nose Day. You might not know that charities actually employ a wealth of dedicated fundraisers who solicit donations from people, companies and other organisations in a variety of innovative and effective ways.
In this day and age, charity fundraising is not just about asking people for spare change in the street or phoning people up and begging them for a donation. It’s all about strategy, leading national campaigns and coming up with innovative fundraising appeals.
Funnily enough, the handful of coppers you reluctantly drop into a bucket that’s being violently shaken by an enthusiastic octogenarian is not enough to sustain the world’s many charities. These organisations spend millions of pounds every year on helping incredibly important causes. Consequently, they need much more money than the 69p you were planning to spend on a soggy cheeseburger.
We’re not saying that you shouldn’t donate your spare change to worthy causes, because every little helps. However, you should definitely realise that fundraising is a complex and interesting career path to pursue.
What do I need to succeed as a fundraiser?
If you want to become a professional fundraiser, you will need to employ an awesome mix of research, sales and marketing skills to succeed. You might be generating funds from the public or you might be trying your hardest to get huge donations out of large companies, charitable trusts and wealthy philanthropists.
You’ll need to be focused, driven and confident in order to be effective. Indeed, fundraising is no longer about who shakes their bucket the hardest; it’s about using your charm, knowledge and cunning to solicit donations.
Think of yourself as a modern day, altruistic Robin Hood. Ok, so you won’t actually be “robbing from the rich and giving to the poor,” but you will be gently persuading people and organisations to part with their cash in order to help a worthy cause.
You shouldn’t expect the highest wages, but you should expect to get immense satisfaction from boosting your charity’s prosperity.
Fundraisers can come from any academic background. A degree may be preferred by the majority of employers; however, this can be in any subject. All you really need is enthusiasm, drive, ambition, tenacity and confidence. To thrive in the world of fundraising, you will also need a certain amount of commercial acumen and the ability to build relationships with people.
What do fundraisers do?
Your role will really depend on the size of the charity you are working for. If you work for a smaller organisation, you might be getting involved in all kinds of fundraising activities. If you work for a larger charity, you might specialise in a specific area, such as corporate fundraising.
Whatever you do in the fundraising arena, you will usually spend part of your time conducting extensive research into potential sources of funding. You will then be exercising your strategic muscles, planning campaigns and engaging in publicity drives, alongside the campaigning and marketing team, in order to raise the profile of the charity and its appeals.
You will also be working your socks off to actually get hold of those valuable donations. You will be networking, sending emails, making calls and attending client meetings in order to solicit funds.
If you end up focusing on one specific area of fundraising, you have plenty of options to choose from.
You could focus your efforts on getting small-scale donations. Here, your job would be to try and generate as much money from the general public. You will effectively be going after smaller contributions from a much larger range of sources.
The strategies you implement might focus around the coordination of street teams that solicit donations from passers-by, i.e. the friendly people that wear anoraks, clutch clipboards and try to corner you when you’re waiting for your friend outside the train station (please note that these guys are actually incredibly helpful!).
You may also be making arrangements with companies, whereby their employees will be encouraged to make ‘payroll donations’, i.e. a small part of their salary will automatically be donated to your charity each month.
You could choose to concentrate your career on arranging and publicising fundraising events for your charity, such as black-tie events for potential benefactors or nationally televised campaigns, such as Children in Need.
A lot of people start off in trust fundraising. Here, you will be conducting masses of research into different charitable trusts and foundations that give grants to worthy initiatives. You will then be cultivating relationships with them, before actually asking for donations.
Corporate fundraising is all about taking advantage of large companies’ ‘corporate social responsibility’ strategies. You will be making calls, attending client meetings and generally getting pally with the people who are in charge of donation budgets. You will effectively be trying to convince big firms to give you huge amounts of cash.
Alternatively, you could be working with major donors, i.e. very rich people that like to give big chunks of their money to good causes. Once again, you will be networking and building relationships with individuals before asking them for dough.
Finally, you could be focusing on legacy fundraising. In a nutshell, this area of work focuses on persuading people to leave money to your charity in their will. Again, you will be promoting your charity’s worth and building relationships with philanthropic individuals.
Reckon you could make some money for a worthy cause? Fundraising is perhaps one of the most important jobs in any charity, enabling them to do what they do best: help people. A career in fundraising may be tough but it is also incredibly rewarding when all your efforts pay off. If that sounds good then maybe this subsector is the one for you!