Careers in Fundraising

Are you interested in a fundraising career? Then you must know that this profession has grown rapidly during the last few decades, especially in the Western world. This occurred because the government support to social services of any kind decreased tremendously. Therefore, it was up to fundraising professionals to raise funds to support projects that allowed for the existence of services crucial for health, social, and cultural policies. One could say that this profession is destined to play a vital and centralized role in our modern society.


What are the “must haves” to be a successful fundraiser? Firstly, an interest in people’s motivation for giving is essential, along with a desire to work in the ‘charity’ sector. Knowledge of marketing techniques and an entrepreneurial attitude are also fundamental to be able to complete long projects with complex dynamics. Experience in the field, will also help you flourish and give you the practical skills to make any project successful.



Fundraiser, a crucial role in the organisation

Fundraisers play a crucial role in  charitable organisations by offering financial subsistence, generating income from a variety of sources and promoting projects and initiatives that support the charitable aims of the organisation.

Working as a fundraiser involves building relationships with potential supporters, publicising the work of the charity and the need for funds. Income can also be generated through donations from individuals, companies, trusts and foundations, fundraising events and through community organisations such as schools and faith groups. Many fundraising roles will specialise in one of these areas of fundraising.

Through fundraising activity the organisation can grow its reputation and positioning. As in a virtuous circle, the stronger this becomes, the higher the fundraising activity will be.

An organisation that is ‘fundraising aware’ takes time to develop a strategy that will let all this be reality. Without this consistent attention to fundraising, the organisation cannot deliver on its charitable aims and objectives.

The fundraiser is central in the organisation as all too often fundraising strategy is detached from the overall charity’s business strategy. Plans may be developed without a thorough assessment of whether or not the income required is achievable and the up-front investment required is available. However, charities depend upon fundraisers to generate the income needed to do what the organisation exists to do.

Recruiting and retaining the right people is something that charities have struggled with. The larger ‘blue chip’ charities can offer the employer brand that attracts high performers, higher levels of remuneration, favourable terms of employment and can invest in professional development. 

Institute of Fundraising Codes of Practice and Code of Conduct

For those that are seeking more information to make your professional life choices, the Institute of Fundraising published a comprehensive set of Codes of Practice ( as well as guidance on best practices. They cover all the different types of fundraising and also include a Code of Conduct for fundraisers and the profession as a whole ( The Codes of Conduct give the employer and professional employees a comprehensive overview of what good looks like in terms of ‘how’ fundraisers should be approaching their work. It also forms the basis for the IoF’s development and assessment of its professional development programme that includes the Certificate in Fundraising Management (

Choosing a Fundraiser

The selection process should provide the employer with the evidence for an individual’s likely performance in the fundraising role and in order to be able to do this, the organisation needs to know what it wants and what “good” looks like.
There is yet to be published a thoroughly researched and evidence-based study that identifies the behavioural indicators and personality profile which are reliable indicators for effective performance in this role.
From a recruitment perspective, there can be different emphasis on competencies required in order for someone to be effective in the role aside from core professional knowledge and management ability.
However, a core requirement is that individuals bring the emotional intelligence required to be able to understand the motivations of donors and other supporters whatever the discipline. A personal passion for the cause will undoubtedly help. This is distinct from personal experience of the cause an organisation tackles, which is no determinator of ability.
Evidence, evidence, evidence is the key. Recruitment may not be a precise science but there is much that can be done to reduce the risk of a poor fundraiser appointment and to avoid the impact this can have on the organisation.
There are a range of personality profiling tools available on the market, e.g.Occupational Personality Questionnaire – QUEST Profiler Ability testing provides the employer with some measure of cognitive ability, e.g. verbal and numerical reasoning tests. Increasingly these are available online. For the administration and interpretation of psychometric tests there may be qualification and licensing requirements, but the materials themselves are relatively inexpensive.
Asking the right questions at the interview will also help. If a hypothetical question is asked then a hypothetical answer will be received.

Starting a Charity

This article covers organisations in England and Wales. Organisations in Scotland and Northern Ireland will be covered separately.
Starting a new charity is not complicated, but it is a significant and legally binding commitment, which should not be undertaken lightly. We hope this brief guide will help you navigate through it. More detailed advice can be found on the charity commission website. The first step is to consider if starting your own charity is the right approach. The Charity Commission gives excellent guidance on when it might not be, for example when there is an existing charity already doing the work you want to do. Do we have to register as a charity
Not all voluntary organisations are charities, and not all charities have to register. Specifically you do not need to register if:
• Your annual income is under £5,000
• Your head office is outside England or Wales
• You are part of a larger organisation and NOT independent (e.g. you do not control your own funds
In addition, there are two specific categories of charities that do not have to register:
1. Excepted Charities – are regulated by the charity commission, but do not need to register – provided their income is below £100,000 per year. These include
Churches and chapels of some Christian denominations
Charitable service funds of the armed services
Scout and Guide groups
2. Exempt Charities – are regulated by other bodies and so do not register. These include:
Most English universities
Charities set up as Industrial and Provident Societies
Many national museums and galleries
Voluntary and foundation schools
If in doubt as to whether your charity should register, you should always contact the Charity Commission.
The registration Process You register a charity via an online form available from the charity commission. It asks a number of questions about the organisation, particularly about how it will benefit the public, and about the people involved. Full guidance notes are provided.
The main concern of the Charity commission is that the purposes of your charity are entirely charitable, and that your activities will be for the benefit of the public, or a section of the public. To determine this, the form asks for each of the charity’s Objects in turn, and then asks how you to describe how you will carry out your objects for the benefit of the public.
The following are examples of charity’s objects
Advancement of Education
Advancement of Religion
Advice and Counselling
Animal Charities
Community Amateur Sports Clubs
Community Capacity Building
Community Centre
Community Transport
Concilliation And Mediation
Conservation of the environment
Elderly People
Equality and Diversity
Family Planning
Museum and/or Art Gallery, The Establishment and Maintenance of a
Prevention or Relief of Poverty for the Public Benefit
Promotion of Human Rights
Promotion of the Law, Police and Crime Prevention
Promotion of Social Inclusion
Racial Harmony
Recreational Charities Act 1958
Refugees / Those Seeking Asylum
Relief of Financial Hardship
Relief of Sickness
Relief of unemployment
Religious Harmony
Sustainable Development
Urban or Rural Regeneration
Village Halls
Young People

Once the form is submitted, the Charity Commission will send an email confirmation, including a declaration which all the trustees must sign. Provided there are no issues with your application, the Charity Commissions state that they will normally complete the registration process in 10 days. In practice, however, it frequently takes longer than this.


Recruiting a Fundraising Director

The skills and experience mix required will depend upon the income profile of the charity.
The level of seniority of the role and its expected contribution to the organisation makes it a critical appointment. It is worth investing in careful planning and preparation. A good candidate will ask to see your accounts, your current fundraising strategy and business plan. Don’t get caught on the hop. As for all recruitment, remember that it’s a two-way street and as much as the employer is making judgements about applicants the same is true in reverse. How an organisation presents itself as an employer of choice and how well it manages the recruitment process are critical if it is to secure the best applicant pool and ultimately the best appointment.
Ensure your base documents are credible, e.g. does your job description set out the scope of the role and the areas for performance or is it simply a list of ‘things to do’?
Decide on the selection process before you launch your search whether you are managing the process in-house or in conjunction with an outside firm.
A common issue facing charities is the extent to which fundraising and communications are integrated with a single director-level position. It can be difficult to find an individual who brings both in equal measure. Often it is the ‘fundraising’ that is the most important and having a ‘communications’ expert does not always enable the organisation to achieve its income objectives. While not always the case, the skills and experience profiles are different so ensure you get the weighting right.
Only in some circumstances will it be likely that a Board will want to appoint an applicant with absolutely no fundraising experience but it does happen.

Recruiting Major Donor Fundraisers

‘Major Donor’ usually refers to wealthy or ‘high-net-worth’ individuals but can also include organisational donors such as corporations and trusts. However, the definition of a Major Donor differs from organisation to organisation. The definition will have implications for the fundraiser applicant.
In some instances the charity will want to recruit an individual who can bring ‘a little black book’ of contacts and be able to open doors. But being well-connected does not always equate to being effective.
It is increasingly the case that the Major Donor fundraiser will need to support peer-to-peer fundraising as it is very often inappropriate for them as the ‘professional’ to be making the ‘ask’.
The effective Major Donor fundraiser will be a highly organised individual who understands the importance and the role of thorough prospect research in developing effective approach plans. Knowing who you intend to approach is not enough. Understanding why and how is the key.
They will bring the ‘gravitas’ needed to be able to interact credibly with influential individuals and key decision makers. Effective inter-personal communication ability will be essential as well as effective organisational ability.
Making an inappropriate approach can have disastrous consequences and while the potential rewards can be high, the risks can be great. It’s not just the risk of losing a potential donation or the withdrawal of ongoing support, it’s the reputation damage that can be wrought by an inexperienced and/or an insensitive act. The greatest impact can be a loss of confidence among other donors as the news spreads.
Major Donors are much more discerning than perhaps in the past and will expect to be provided with the evidence for the impact of their donation. There can be considerable overlap between causes, which means that Major Donors have choice.
Nationally there is a shortage of effective Major Donor fundraisers, but it is one of the disciplines where care is needed if recruiting for said position. It is more difficult to recruit and it may take time to recruit in someone with the direct experience required.
The level of remuneration for Major Donor fundraisers increased during the 1990s and even medium-sized organisations will need to consider £40,000 plus, e.g. to head up a moderate capital appeal of a few million pounds. Within larger national organisations, salaries of £50,000 are common and can exceed £60,000.

Recruiting Trusts, Foundations and Statutory Fundraisers

The traditional view of the Trust and Statutory fundraiser is of someone working largely in isolation to produce complex funding applications for a variety of trusts, foundations, statutory and other grant-giving bodies based on research into the match between the funding criteria and the cause.
The sheer number of charities approaching trusts and foundations has increased requiring a sophisticated and targeted approach. Relationship development has become vitally important and consequently a core area of competence for an effective fundraiser specialising in this discipline.
Internal relationship development is also likely to be a key requirement as the trust fundraiser will need to collaborate closely with colleagues to provide the evidence to support funding bids and the case studies that illustrate impact.
This competence is in addition to the very effective organisation and research ability required to analyse and interpret complex written and numerical information
The level of remuneration for trust fundraisers has historically been lower than that of Major Donor fundraisers, although there was an increase during the latter half of the 1990s as charities realised the potential income benefits of targeted and mapped out trust programmes. While some larger charities may pay more for very senior positions, a salary of £40,000 would attract a very experienced and competent fundraiser.

Recruiting Corporate Fundraisers

The impact of the recession has inevitably impacted upon the total amount of money companies are able to give, but there is still significant benefit for charities to gain from corporate partnership, e.g. payroll giving.
Depending on the level of corporate fundraiser being recruited, the skills required include effective influence and persuasion, an ability to understand and appreciate the motivations for why a company will support a charity, and the ability to perform demanding accountability requirements. The credibility of the charity will be judged by the quality of the delivery on the promises given.
Corporate Account Executives will command a salary of between £25,000 and £35,000 depending upon the size of the accounts. At the higher end in larger charities will offer salaries in excess of £50,000.
Corporate fundraising is a discipline that can lend itself particularly well to applicants from outside the sector.

Recruiting Community and Regional Fundraisers

Community fundraising is often viewed as the bedrock for many charities. It may not always yield the best return on investment but it helps to maintain the profile of the charity at a local level in an increasingly competitive market place and it provides the leads and the connections to other potential gifts.
Any analysis of the experience profile of community fundraisers will show that people arrive in it from a wide variety of routes. Again, it may be as a direct result of personal experience with a particular cause, it may be as result of having worked as a volunteer it may be by complete accident.
Relationship management and people management are core skills. The increased use of volunteers to improve the ROI has broadened the scope of responsibility and indeed the complexity for community fundraisers. Managing expectations and providing the appropriate level of input are constant challenges.
National charities can have large geographically dispersed teams so remote management becomes a key task. Consequently ability to work on initiative but with accountability are also skills required.
Remuneration can vary considerably and the larger national charities tend to be able to pay more and offer better terms and conditions. A Regional Fundraising Manager can command a salary of £35,000 plus benefits such as a car. A locally based Community or Regional Fundraiser is typically paid £25,000 upwards and there can be benefits packages too.

Recruiting Events Fundraisers

Events often come within the scope of responsibility of a charity’s regional and/or community fundraising team.
However, fundraising event management can be managed separately and centrally. The rise and rise in the popularity of challenge events and mass participation events has often been the driver. In other instances a charity will maintain an active programme of high profile events as part of its overall major donor cultivation strategy.
Such events carry a significant operational overhead, e.g. promotion, communications, sponsorship, negotiating with suppliers.
Effective events management professionals possess great organisational ability and evidence core project management knowledge and competence. It is one of the fundraising disciplines that also lends itself more easily to recruiting in from the commercial sector as the knowledge requirements for compliance with charity legislation can be acquired. It can be assumed (subject to gaining the evidence at interview) that someone with commercial experience will understand the requirements for legal compliance.
Salaries vary depending on size of organisation, the events programme, income targets etc. but a high level Events Manager will typically command in excess of £30,000.

Competence versus experience

There is an ongoing debate as to whether fundraisers need charity sector experience in order to be effective. Some charities will not appoint a fundraiser who does not have it.
An obvious Catch 22!
The other ongoing discussion is whether or not a fundraiser can be effective if they are not 100% committed to the cause. Some say ‘yes’ and some say ‘no’.
In reality recruiting fundraisers is no different from recruiting to any other discipline. There’s no magic involved. What makes for an effective fundraiser is the ability, or the competence, to perform what is required.

Assessing experience

The first point of reference will be the CV or the Application Form.
What does ‘good’ fundraising experience look like? Clearly it depends on the role you are recruiting to, but things to look out for are evidence of personal achievement. How much did the individual raise personally, what were the income targets, how many direct reports did they have, what was the size of the operational budget?
It’s also worth checking the scale of the operation of previous employers as a Head of Fundraising in one organisation is a completely different prospect depending upon total income, the mix of income, the proportion of restricted and unrestricted income, voluntary income, legacies, etc.
Checking your facts is part of your due diligence and it’s easy to do. Information about charity structure, governance and finance is much more readily available than just a few years ago.

Previous or current level of remuneration is a relative measure of compatibility for a role, but should not necessarily be taken in isolation. Equally the length of experience someone has in fundraising does not determine effectiveness and performance. Most managers across all sectors would accept this second point as being true when recruiting to any discipline.
One of the general criticisms of fundraising as a profession, and of fundraisers, is the frequency that people change jobs. There are two sides to the argument. Employers say that it is impossible for long-term relationships to be developed and for the potential benefit to be realised where there is such a high turnover. Fundraisers argue that the sector doesn’t invest enough in professional development so the only way to secure career advancement is to change jobs.
Whatever the truth of the matter, great care is needed when assessing the suitability and robustness of previous experience. A career history showing someone moving every 18 months or two years has got to be a concern.
Evidence of achievement should be contained within the application and will need probing at interview. Again, it comes back to knowing what is needed and making an assessment of the evidence provided and not taking it at face value.

Assessing competence

Like other employers, charities will adopt a variety of different approaches to recruiting fundraisers, which will largely be determined by organisational policy and procedure. With regards to the selection process itself, the majority will rely on the ‘traditional’ interview and often this will be a two-stage process.
Larger charities with more resources may deploy psychometric testing (a broad description encompassing ability testing, personality profiling, job simulation exercises, etc.). Medium-sized organisations may also deploy a similar approach to selection for key positions.
The decision on appointment and ultimately the success of the hire will in large part depend upon the competence of the interview panel.
Managers across all sectors and all types of job disciplines will describe themselves as ‘being let down’ by a previous postholder.
Individual poor performance or a poor decision on appointment?
Not every not-for-profit organisation understands fundraising and there can be differences of opinion between trustee boards and senior management teams. Expectations can be unrealistic and targets aspirational rather than evidence-based.

A Leap of Faith? Recruiting Outside the Sector

Is the sector missing out where it only recruits fundraisers from within it? Is it missing out on the potential contribution of people with up-to-date knowledge and experience of commercial practices and standards of performance?
Recruiting managers from ‘the enemy’ (as some might see it) will not be countenanced by some charities, and yet many of the top charities appoint their Chief Executives from outside the sector.
Why? Is it a fear of being found wanting by comparison as some commentators suggest? It is assumed that someone with a commercial sector background will struggle to understand the motivations of donors and supporters and find it difficult to operate within a stakeholder context where there are complex accountabilities?
People, many of them senior professionals, who seek to transfer to the sector are often bewildered by the setbacks and rejection they experience.
There is no doubt a gap to be bridged, but it is short-sighted to believe it impossible to acquire knowledge of the legislation governing fundraising within a reasonable timeframe or to gain an understanding of what motivates donors. Someone with absolutely no sector experience may be on a steep learning curve initially, but it is the extent of their relationship-building and empathy skills that will enable them to acquire deeper and more practical understanding, and these are what should be assessed.
Some fundraising disciplines perhaps lend themselves more easily to people with commercial, or even public sector backgrounds. Look for the transferability of previous experience, e.g. account management and corporate fundraising.
Also consider where relevant experience could have been gained in a voluntary capacity as evidence of a personal commitment, e.g. acting as a trustee or school governor, participating in events, volunteering, etc.

Where to Look for Fundraisers

For even small to medium sized organisations it is possible to conduct a search using on-line media only and at a much reduced cost than traditional print advertising and to manage the process much more efficiently.
The current view is that print advertising will be likely to continue to have a role in attracting the ‘passive’ applicant, i.e. the one who didn’t know they were looking for a job until they saw the advertisement over a cup of coffee at the weekend, or one of their friends saw it and told them about it.
The 2008-9 recession has accelerated the move to online recruitment across all sectors. Prior to the recession it was estimated that the spend on online recruitment would outstrip that on print by 2014.
In addition to the job listing itself the system will generate email alerts to potential applicants, i.e. they have registered on the website. It represents effective below the line marketing.
There are now a number of specialist recruitment websites covering the sector that carry fundraising vacancies. Many organisations will also post vacancies on their corporate website too, but these will not always secure a suitable applicant pool on their own as they are unlikely to be returned high up in search engine listings unless the organisation has a very strong employer brand.
The costs of advertising vary and choice will be determined by budget.
There are other generalist recruitment websites that could be included in the media mix depending upon location and job type but some caution is needed as listings can generate a high volume of inappropriate applications. Even if the selection criteria are clear there is still a risk.
Where a particular specialism is sought, e.g. marketing, new media, the charity will want to consider including specialist websites.

Recruitment Consultancy / Agents

There can be resistance to the use of a recruitment ‘agent’ based on the perception that all they simply provide is a CV brokerage service and that it’s money for old rope.
However, the acceleration of online recruitment and the access to potential applicant markets as well as efficient electronic recruitment management software has increased the pressure on recruitment professionals to demonstrate exactly where and how they add value to the search and selection process.
There are relatively few out-and-out sector specialist recruiters who can support and add value to the recruitment of fundraisers. These include:
As a result of the recession more ‘commercial’ sector recruiters have turned their attention to the nfp sector in the false belief that it is recession-proof. There has always been some larger commercial sector recruiters with an nfp arm. Examples include:
So there is choice when deciding to engage a recruitment specialist, but it is usually the case that decisions are made on the quality of the relationship the employer is able to establish with the supplier and as with donor relationship development much can depend on previous experience. If a manager has received a positive experience in the past as a result of engaging a supplier as an employer or as a job seeker themselves they are likely to go back – as fundraisers know very well, people buy from people.
In the current climate, and apart from the relationship and culture fit, there will be a series of other criteria that will determine whether or not the charity could, or should, appoint a specialist recruiter:
•Budget – obvious, but always a consideration. The recession has meant downward pressure on fees and commission and there can be some variance so shop around. •Search – a specialist recruiter must be able to demonstrate where and how they can extend the search campaign beyond simply uploading the vacancy to a number of websites, i.e. what’s their database like, how much access does it provide to informal and professional networks, how is it exploited? etc. How will it support making direct approaches? •Response handling – recruitment is always a resource hungry activity so there is merit in having the process managed as it removes the ‘hassle’ •Selection – what value is being added to the selection process? Is there any preliminary screening? Gone are the days when recruitment agencies meet all the individuals registered with them – the sheer numbers and the logistics prevent it. If testing is required, can it be provided? •Referencing – what pre-employment checks are carried out? •Guarantee – recruitment is not a precise science and there is always the risk of unforeseen events leading to an appointment breaking down within a short time frame. Most agents offer a rebate on a sliding scale but a reputable supplier will seek to replace at nil cost and/or offer a full refund.

Contributor: Simon Lloyd, Director Nfp Resourcing Ltd.

How to be Recruited as a Fundraiser

Good sources of information on available fundraising jobs include the Guardian Job website, Third Sector Magazine and the Institute of Fundraising. Charity Job also carry a large number of fundraising jobs, and you can sign up for a weekly email digest.
In addition, there are numerous recruitment agencies which specialise in fundraising, including Charity People, CF Appointments, Execucare, Harris Hill, Caritas Recruitment and Eden Brown. All allow you to register your CV via their website and browse their online jobs listing. Most will advertise their available jobs through the sites and publications above.
Be pro-active; not all vacancies are widely advertised. Make a shortlist of charities you would like to work for and check their websites regularly for vacancies. Consider sending them your CV together with a brief covering letter.
Recruitment agencies are also using existing networks to target their vacancy announcements. Some have been doing this since the days of email discussion forums (like UK Fundraising’s FundUK, from 1996 onwards), but many more are now using the easy-to-use and free tools like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Finding and joining relevant networks online therefore becomes even more important if you wish to learn of relevant job vacancies.
The Institute of Fundraising has a good section on what an employer looks for in a fundraiser and gives details on possible training routes and internships for those interested in joining the sector.

Government Funds

A large number of non-profits in diverse countries are dependent on Government Funds. This has grown in the past half-century as the state has retreated from providing social services and encouraged charitable organisations to take up delivery instead. In the UK this is known as the contract culture.Government
Governments provide a very wide range of funds and these can be quite significant sums, though charities need to be careful that they are receiving ‘full-cost recovery’ i.e. that any project funded by the government contributes to the overheads it consumes, otherwise the organisation may find itself in the position in the untenable situation where it is running a large number of excellent programmes, but cannot pay for its core costs.