Fundraising as a Profession--What Does it Take to Succeed?

fundraising as a career Feb 23, 2021

Good Listener

Good listening is definitely a quality that can be learned. A class in communications can help emphasize that listening is the most important part of good communication skills. (There may be a very good reason why human beings were created with one mouth and two ears!)

Active listening is important to good donor relations. Often a major gift can be secured by a solicitor whose listening skills have been honed. Listening for what the donor’s interests are is even more important than being able to persuasively explain the organization's case. Practice making "the ask" and truly listening to the donor through role playing with colleagues or by attending courses in making the ask.

Ability to Motivate

 The ability to motivate donors, volunteers and staff is a critical key for success. Motivating donors goes back to the integrity section. Putting the donor's interest first and foremost will make it easier for you to motivate donors. Motivating donors does not mean persuading donors to do something that they don't want to do or that is not in their best interest. Motivating donors comes through understanding that philanthropy brings joy to the donor and that if the donor really believes in the mission, motivation is simply a tool to bring about the donor’s wishes. Learning the case for support and having passion for the mission of the organization for which one works, is the best way to successfully motivate another person to share that passion.

It is also important for you to understand the psychology of philanthropy. There are many motivating factors that prompt an individual to contribute to a nonprofit organization. Each donor will have different motivating factors that influence a decision to give or not give. Listening to the donor is a critical skill which can help you understand how to motivate donors.

Volunteers, likewise, can be motivated only if the volunteers and the fundraising staff share a passion for the mission of the organization. Again, a good course in communication will help you learn how to speak and write with enthusiasm and passion that will motivate others.

Motivating the staff of the organization is also important. This starts with having respect and concern for other staff members. Staff members will be motivated by the good example set by the chief development officer. Involving staff in the development planning process is a good way to motivate them to help implement the plan.

Regular staff meetings that include an educational segment about some facet of fundraising and occasionally a motivational or inspirational guest speaker, in addition to staff updates on current projects, can help motivate staff to greatness.

Hard Worker

 One thing you need to understand going into this profession is that it is definitely not a 9 to 5 job. Often you may be on the job as early as 7 a.m. meeting with volunteers, attending breakfast meetings, or just getting into the office early to organize your day before the phone calls and emails start arriving. You may easily be at work at 7 or 9 p.m. attending after-hours events, meeting with volunteers, or working at a phonathon. The key is to work hard but take good care of yourself at the same time. Eating healthy, getting regular exercise, having a hobby or interests outside of work, and taking a vacation or several mini vacations each year will keep you mentally and physically healthy even though the hours of your job may be demanding.

And, working hard does not mean you need to be “wired in” 24/7. Leave work at work, do not take it home or on vacation unless it is extremely critical. In some cases, it might be better to answer emails while on vacation rather than becoming stressed out by the sheer volume of email waiting at the office on your first day back at work. But, as a true professional. be careful to avoid thinking that you are indispensable and that you have to stay connected to the office at all times.

You aren’t, and you don’t!

To learn more about getting started in or advancing in your fundraising career, take my course, Fundraising as a Career, Sign up here

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