Progressing from a junior fundraising role to the next step can be daunting for many. Ashley Gatewood of CFRE International sets out five tips for fundraisers on moving up the career ladder, taking inspiration from fundraisers across Europe.
The early stages of your fundraising career can be exhilarating. After all, anything is possible! But it’s often a daunting experience too – there’s much to learn and all of it feels new.
As with most things in life, starting out right can make all the difference in your future success. Let’s examine a few ways you can set yourself apart while putting yourself on track to grow in your fundraising career.
Don’t get overwhelmed – Break down your goals
Fundraising is driven by goals – occasionally scary goals that feel out of reach. Most fundraisers have lost at least one night of sleep along the way, counting how far they are from their goal instead of sheep.
Konstantina Papadimitriou, CFRE, a fundraiser in Greece working at Inuksuk Consulting, has these wise words: “Break down yearly goals in a monthly plan and focus on opportunities that have the greatest potential. Engage the leadership of your organisation in fundraising efforts and share challenges to help them set realistic expectations. Don’t hesitate to ask for support when needed.”
Staying level-headed and not being afraid to speak up when you need support are two traits that will serve you well across your career.
Use your ears
You’re on fire for your mission. You love the difference your work makes in moving the needle forward for your cause.
In donor interactions, it is tempting to kick-off the conversation by sharing details of the extraordinary work your organisation performs. Before you start declaring the myriad of ways your organisation is remarkable, listen to your donors.
Give your supporters space to talk about why your mission matters to them and why they support you. Most donors have a personal connection to a mission. Listening to what motivates your donors’ involvement will reveal powerful insights you can infuse into future campaigns and help build your successful track record.
Plug into a fundraising network
The chances are that there is a professional association or network for fundraisers in your country. Become a member early in your career. Even if you need to pay for membership yourself, it is an investment that will come back to you manifold over your career.
If you’re not a natural at networking, don’t worry. Many people aren’t. It is a skill to develop. Don’t be intimidated to strike up conversations with others at professional events. Every experienced fundraiser started out just like you. Most will enjoy sharing their advice and feedback to help you on your career trajectory.
Graham Papenfus, CFRE, director of development at Kingswood School in the UK, advises:
“South African golfer Gary Player once said, ‘The more I practice, the luckier I get!’ One thing I have learnt over my 25+ years in fundraising is that being in the right place at the right time is often a bit of luck BUT you make your own luck. Get out and meet people, attend events, support your community in any way you can as every interaction, planned or by chance, will always result in a connection made and often an offer of help or even a gift.”
It’s good to be a smarty pants
Being new to a profession can feel like walking on the moon, and fundraising is no different. There’s lingo to learn and best practices to absorb.
No matter how busy your job gets, don’t put continuing education on the backburner. It is easy to get swept away by appeal deadlines and putting out fires, so make a promise to yourself about how much time you will devote each month to expanding your fundraising knowledge.
This could be as simple as saying you will spend three hours per month participating in fundraising education. With a bevy of on-demand and virtual options, it is a cinch to squeeze in learning over your lunch break or when you have a pause between projects.
Earn a qualification
Many fundraisers landed in their profession via happenstance and then learned their craft on the job. While that can be well and good, it can also mean gaps in your fundraising knowledge.
Check if your local fundraising association offers a diploma course or other formalised learning pathway. A structured course will imbue you with a comprehensive overview of how various aspects of fundraising knit together. Even if your role is specialised, such as major giving, you’ll benefit tremendously from learning how bequests, events, digital fundraising, volunteer management, and more all work in concert to create a meaningful donor experience.
Once you hit three years’ fundraising experience, you may want to explore earning the Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) certification. It is not only comprehensive and accredited, but globally-recognised.
Holding a qualification or diploma bolsters your knowledge while setting you up for a successful job hunt. It can ensure your CV stands out to future employers and communicates you are a dedicated professional serious about your fundraising practice.
Ready, steady, go
As a fundraiser new to the profession, you’re embarking on an exciting career journey where you wake up every weekday ready to advance your cause. While it can be easy to feel discouraged when things don’t go to plan, never forget the rewards are second-to-none. Stay positive, curious, and dedicated and you’ll enjoy a rewarding career like none other.
About Ashley Gatewood
Based in Baltimore, Ashley Gatewood is Communciations and Marketing Director for CFRE International, where she has worked since January 2018. Previously, she was the events and marketing manager at the Fundraising Institute of New Zealand, where she helped bring world-class fundraising programming to the country. She is on a life quest to visit 100 countries.
Main photo (top) by Noémi Macavei-Katócz on Unsplash
|cookielawinfo-checbox-analytics||11 months||This cookie is set by GDPR Cookie Consent plugin. The cookie is used to store the user consent for the cookies in the category "Analytics".|
|cookielawinfo-checbox-functional||11 months||The cookie is set by GDPR cookie consent to record the user consent for the cookies in the category "Functional".|
|cookielawinfo-checbox-others||11 months||This cookie is set by GDPR Cookie Consent plugin. The cookie is used to store the user consent for the cookies in the category "Other.|
|cookielawinfo-checkbox-necessary||11 months||This cookie is set by GDPR Cookie Consent plugin. The cookies is used to store the user consent for the cookies in the category "Necessary".|
|cookielawinfo-checkbox-performance||11 months||This cookie is set by GDPR Cookie Consent plugin. The cookie is used to store the user consent for the cookies in the category "Performance".|