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Bill King

Contact Bill King
Email: [email protected]

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Job design and staff appointments

It is important for fundraising jobs to have clear boundaries where responsibilities end, so that applicants know exactly what is expected of them. It is also important to set realistic targets, so that staff are not demotivated by apparent failure: an income of £15,000 will be thought a disaster if the budget was £20,000, but a wonderful success if it was £10,000.
Job descriptions are essential in drawing the boundaries around fundraising positions, which otherwise can get very confused. This should be done largely by income source rather than a loose area of work, e.g. ‘events’ and ‘membership recruitment advertising’ rather than ‘promotions’ and ‘press work’ – in which case who promotes the events in the press? Some organisations have dispensed with job descriptions altogether, as rapidly changing market conditions have demanded flexibility, but that cannot be done effectively without other linked transformations.

As it becomes apparent that a new position is needed, it is essential to:
think through the implications for everyone in the department, as other changes may consequently be required look at whether the position is really a permanent one or whether the workload is only a reflection of a temporary increase in income, and whether the work could not better be done outside the organisation or by a key volunteer.

You will need to follow your equal opportunities policy in advertising for fundraising staff, but within this you might like to consider The Guardian on Mondays (media and marketing) or Wednesdays (public appointments), the ICFM Newsletter, and Professional Fundraising magazine. There are also an increasing number of agencies specialising in fundraising and other ‘charity’ staff. Keep your eye on the salaries paid for various fundraising positions. With the huge retreat of state money from welfare provision in the past few years, fundraisers have been in great demand and there is a very limited supply of people with serious fundraising experience, so salaries have increased faster than for most other NGO positions. Some NGO salaries are, however, locked in a time warp so their advertised levels of remuneration will appear derisory.

Make clear in the advertisement: exactly what the job entails, the qualities and experience you are looking for, the salary and other benefits you are willing to give.

The interview

The interview is far more important than subsequent training, yet most organisations devote much more energy to training. Ensure you have a written job description for the post and person specification to ft that job description. Then agree a set of questions to reveal the qualities, or lack of them, that you have listed in the job description. Keep a score of the answers. It is all too easy to forget what the first candidate said when you are interviewing the fourth. Keep all documentation and notes after the interviews in case you are faced with a legal action at a later date.

Remember, anything you write down may appear in court.
Take time to let the interviewee relax and answer all questions fully.
Make sure you have thought through your questions well and that they will allow you to discover if the interviewee has the experience and qualities you are looking for.
Make sure that the interviewee talks for at least 80% of the time.
Talk through their CV with them in detail to see if they have really had the experience it seems to show, or if it is just selective to make it fit the job description and advertisement.
Think carefully about a written test and ‘in-tray’ exercise. This can be very revealing.
Let the staff they will be working with meet the candidates, and preferably have at least one member of the department on the interview panel.
If, at the end of interviewing the shortlisted candidates, you are not sure which to appoint, do take the time for second interviews. It is surprising how this clarifies issues and how much additional information you can learn.

Interviewees are also interested in how you put the job over to them. It is easy to lose good candidates by making the job seem unattractive. Do not assume, because they have read the advertisement and the job description, that they know all about your organisation or the work they will be doing. How they perceive you as someone to work with is very important. Of course, it will not do to oversell the position. People often remember very clearly what was said to them at the interview. Offers made at the interview, even if only orally, constitute offers under the contract that you are negotiating.

The Institute of Personnel Managers (IPM) issues a very useful recruitment code. Their address is IPM House, Camp Road, Wimbledon, London SW19 4UW.


Induction to the department is crucial in enabling new members of staff to perform at their best as soon as possible. The objectives of the induction process should be clear and it should be a priority for the HoD to make sure it goes smoothly.
New members of staff will also need to know a broad range of people in the organisation with whom they will be interacting, and how to make the necessary contacts for any research into programme work they will require. Apart from the purely human needs of meeting everyone and getting to know where all the basic resources are, the next most important piece of induction centres on the translation of programme activity into effective fundraising language, whether written, verbal or visual, and on the approvals needed before publication.

Staff development and training

You will find it much more rewarding to think in terms of employee development rather than just training, which tends to mean courses to gain certain skills or improve techniques. These are necessary and important, but assisting staff to develop in a wider context, (perhaps by acquiring new experience, or by moving on in the organisation), or remotivating them after several years of the same type of work, will give your workforce much greater strength and dynamism.
If your organisation is progressive enough, try rotating staff members through different parts of it. It really helps to have worked in departments like finance, communications or campaigns. Staff will not only gain a new understanding; they will also collect friends and allies. Letting fundraising staff know exactly how the finances of the organisation are progressing will be much appreciated, so long as they can also see where the income they generate and expenditure they incur fits into the overall picture.

Training courses

There are now many well recognised fundraising training courses. The best known are run by the Institute of Charity Fundraising Managers (ICFM) and the Directory of Social Change. These courses provide both basic training for those entering the profession and more advanced training in specialist subjects. The ICFM also runs an annual convention, which is highly recommended. Other courses are advertised from time to time in the fundraising press.


In many NGOs there is no career structure as such. People do move from voluntary work to staff posts and then to senior positions, but promotion tends to be possible only by moving to another organisation. Many people are understandably reluctant to do this.
Within a fundraising department this can be ameliorated by training volunteers and staff so that they are ready to apply for vacancies as they fall open. To some extent positions can be shaped for the people moving into them, but this is dangerous if carried too far. What happens if they leave soon afterwards? Can you find another person with the skills that fit this special job? Will you have to restructure the department again? It is often difficult for staff with special skills like merchandising, trust fundraising, or running events to move to the stage of running a department. More often, the jump is made by those with marketing skills who work with direct mail, advertising, and other direct response media. The transition can, however, be made by building up your CV to include the skills required, (including management), by training and experience. Sometimes a spell in a parallel position in marketing will help, or a move to a smaller organisation where the ‘fundraiser’ does everything.


Redundancies are rarely handled well. They usually come in the wake of long financial problems, when the organisation has finally accepted that it should scale down its work and delay has made things so grim that redundancies have to be made with undue speed. For a fundraising department there is often the early psychological problem of knowing that the income budgets have not been met, and that therefore the charities work will suffer. This is exacerbated when individuals positions are on the line.
Naturally, as income drops, fundraisers should see their resources increase to cope with the problem. This, unfortunately, does not happen very often, and NGOs are likely to take the foolish step of laying off people equally across departments, or putting everyone on part-time when they should be increasing staff time devoted to fundraising. This only aggravates the situation, and means that fewer funds will be raised, so speeding up any redundancies.

Managing suppliers

Your ability to raise funds effectively will often depend on the quality of your interaction with your agencies be they direct marketing, telemarketing, advertising or simply printing. As with staff, careful recruitment is essential. You will need to have a clear idea, on paper, of the brief you are giving the agency (or supplier), the budget they will have to spend and the return you are looking for in financial and non-financial terms as well as the equivalent of a person spec. Do you wish for a highly creative team or a very reliable operation or one that is knowledgeable and has a good track record in say, setting up successful programmes of loose-leaf inserts into magazines ? Add a timetable to the brief so that the agency knows when you want each activity to happen.
It is worth taking the time to interview a series of agencies (at least three) and asking them to pitch for the business. Do tell any existing agency that you are doing this. It will save embarrassment when they read about it in Campaign magazine before you let them know. Do ask your existing agency if they would like to pitch as well – they could surprise you.
Regular meetings to look at the progress and the relationship are essential. I would suggest these happen at least quarterly for any major contract. Depending on your system for monitoring results you or your agency should supply them in an agreed format at regular intervals. The format should be sufficient to judge progress according the criteria for success that you have set. If you have set up a management agreement with say, a direct mail agency then they will usually be analysing and presenting the figures.
You should have a written contract with each agency. The conditions of the 1992 Charity Act need to be followed if you are employing an agency to actually raise funds for you. In this case do ensure that those donating to you through this organisation are aware of the percentage of income that the agency receives.
If you hire a consultant to carry out specific activities or to give you advice you will need to draw up a written contract and to specify exactly what you need, a schedule of activity and the rate of renumeration that applies.

Working in a successful fundraising department can be a very rewarding experience, as successes in fundraising can be clearly recognised. Another satisfying and interesting aspect of fundraising, which lies behind the creativity inherent in the work, is the whole psychology of giving. The next chapter looks at some of the issues involved.

Inter-departmental Conflicts

Fundraisers are often anxious to complete tasks within a strict budget and time requirements. This process is often accompanied by a high level of tension and relative uncertainty about the outcome. It is not surprising that fundraisers can clash with departments working to a different timescale and priorities. For example, another department may prefer to have programme information checked by a particlar person, rather than have an advertisement go out on time, or to meet auditing requirements rather than take time to let Fundraising know immediate details of the returns on the day’s advertisement.
An organisational culture wihch respects fundraising is essential, in order to create the positive climate that will welcome new intitiatives and the resulting changes. An over-dynamic fundraising department which upsets peoples’ lives by creating continuous organisational change is rarely appreciated, as most people prefer a quiet, orderly life with a large degree of security. Rapid growth, new employees starting and new programmes beginning mean that staff positions change, and the position of older staff in the organisaion changes too. Having been accustomed to being a vital part of a small organisation, in direct contact with the director, staff may feel devalued if they find themselves having to report to a new person in a distant part of the empire.
Preventing clashes and wars saves an emormous amout of time and energy. Once an interdepartmental war has started it can rumble on for years through the evolution of an organisaion, weakening it and holding back its development, as well as making the working lives of staff intolerable.
The key to war preventions and peacekeeping is to anticipate the areas of clash, and to agree procedures for staff to follow which meet their needs within the agreed priorities of the organisation. In the customary NGO free-for-all you will find this may not be welcome medicine, but it is far better than the disease!
Thorough planning, which goes hand-in-hand with good communication, helps a lot. If all other departments know that fundraising is going to double the membership in a year, they can expect their correspondence to double as well. The postroom, Finance and Membership will be able to plan how to cope with the influx, and, if the means by which those people will be brought on board is well known, provision can be made for the necessary information to reach Fundraising, and the approval givers can be prepared for the material that comes their way.
Above all, avoid surprises, so that people can plan to take fundraising needs into account at all levels. It is necessary both to alert senior management, so that they can tell their departments what to expect as part of their work, and to make early contacts among staff at lower levels, so that everyone to be affected is personally informed and brought on board. This also acts as an insurance policy, in case management is inefficient. Above all, don’t forget your friends in the postroom.
An organisational culture which repects fundraising is essential, to create the positive climate that will welcome new initiatives and the resulting changes. These transitions need very careful handling, with a strong emphasis on understanding just how important the changes are in achieving the organisation’s objectives. If this is not clearly comprehended by all staff, change will be vigorously opposed.

Managing a Fundraising Department

If you were starting a new organisation from scratch:
You would first need to estimate where your likely sources of income lay. Often the initial gifts come from trusts, from the Government or a wealthy individual. In either case, you would need to work out how long this money would last, and estimate the chances of a repeat donation. (Those who have given already are nearly always the most likely sources of additional finance.) If there is a lot still to be gained from the original source, your first appointment might be someone able to further develop this aspect of income, leaving you free to investigate new sources.

The next step is likely to be the development of the donor-base, and you will need someone to run it who, in the early stages, will also be undertaking the donor development and your appeals for extra funds. If you are fortunate and this works well, the position will need to be split to create one position more concerned with database management, and another concerned with marketing.

After that, it is really a question of following the best-performing sectors; but be careful of building up ‘events’ ahead of the donor-base, as the latter is a far more stable area of income. Merchandising is often one of the first posts to be created in a fundraising department but, unless the membership/donor-base is at least 20,000, and better still, over 50,000 strong, this may not be financially attractive compared with other posts which move your supporters higher up the fundraising pyramid. ‘Following the best performing sectors’ should, of course, be reflected in your long-term (three/four/five-year?) strategy, which should be agreed with the organisation via the planning process, and properly resourced through the budgetary process. This objective, and the subsequent development of a department to support it, is really at the centre of any successful fundraising strategy.

Ensuring full support from your organisation it is essential that the whole organisation is behind your work.
The first step is to nurture your plans carefully through the planning process. The resource implications must be spelled out as early as possible so that further income generation is acknowledged to be based on development of the department. It is immensely difficult to request successfully additional staff members on the basis of workload if this has not been planned and agreed beforehand (preferably a few years beforehand), as you will be arguing for fundraising staff against programme staff, and that is not easy.

Remember to back up requests on the part of processing departments like Finance and Membership, who will have to cope with the additional income your work produces; otherwise the process will break down, and your financial and numerical reports will be out of date and provide information too late for you to act on. The servicing of your members/donors will also fail and, as well as being less responsive to your appeals, they will leave earlier than they would normally. Members, as distinct from donors, are surprisingly resilient, but it is very unwise to trade on this by letting your service to them deteriorate. They will assume that the efficiency you display towards them reflects the efficiency with which you conduct your programme work.

Organisational structure

The chances are that your fundraising department has grown up on an ad hoc basis like that of most NGOs. Very few are designed from scratch and very few are re-engineered as thoroughly as the pains of most NGO ‘restructuring’ might suggest. At the heart of any sizeable fundraising operation is the donor-base. Yet in many organisations this is located in the membership department, whose mission can be to defend the members from the nefarious fundraisers. Often the membership has voting rights and is the political master of the organisation, not simply a donor-base to be nurtured solely for its disposable income. So placing it outside the fundraising department, frustrating though this is, has a logic which may defeat all attempts to relocate it.

This is not to say that you should not put forward cogent arguments for improving the situation, and demand at least a very high level of service both from the Membership department and from the members’ newsletter. This is often another key fundraising tool which can be mislocated in any one of several departments (Campaigns, Communications, Membership, the Directorate) and which will cling on, limpet-like, against all encouragement to move it to a new home.

Despite this negative beginning, the fundraising department can gradually become acknowledged within an NGO as a full department in its own right, rather than an adjunct of finance or the ugly duckling of the wonderful events programme.
To emerge from these gloomy places into the light of day, a sense of mission is needed, and with it the clear idea that the fundraising department is responsible for the entire income generation of the organisation, not just for one small corner.

Possible structures and staffing

There are many ways of arranging a fundraising department and many ways of splitting up the tasks into jobs. The difficulty of setting out a model is compounded by organisations’ differing proclivities to use agents or do the work in-house.
One model is to centralise around the pyramid, using agencies for specialist tasks such as advertising, direct mail, loose-leaf inserts and the dispatch of mass mailings, but perhaps retaining the database and cheque processing in-house.
Here, trawling for new members and donors is undertaken by one member of staff who is responsible for advertising, loose-leaf inserts, direct mail (prospecting) and member-gets-member schemes.

They should perhaps be responsible for membership renewals as well, (as this is a form of prospecting with a very hot list). This is usually more than one person can do, and so agencies are used to make it all physically possible. This can vary from one overall agency to several (which gives greater expertise, but takes more effort to manage). These can be an advertising agency, a direct mail agency or a space-buying agency, all backed up by various printers and a mailing house or houses.

To this work is often added that of the direct mail appeals, which usually use the same agency as the one used for prospecting. These are, however, quite different disciplines and can be separated without undue loss of synergy. If they are divided then a second staff position may be needed to undertake the work of gaining additional funds from members and donors. This will include, appeals, monthly giving, ‘big gift’ appeals, capital appeals, legacies and raffles.

Again, this is more than one person can handle, and agencies can be used. When a major campaign is launched, such as a new monthly giving scheme or capital appeal, new staff may be needed for the duration of the appeal.

The opposite model, too, is quite appropriate, i.e. taking in-house as much work as possible. Once professional staff know enough to instruct agencies successfully, (and they will usually have to instruct advertising agencies very carefully to obtain direct-response, not prestige advertising), they are quite capable of hiring the necessary designers and printers and can cut out the agency commission, and in so doing retain a high level of professionalism and job satisfaction. Cheque processing and database management, on the other hand, are routine tasks that have little ‘fit’ with most NGOs’ culture and can quite easily be undertaken externally.
In practice, you will find, NGOs seem to oscillate every few years between external databases and internal systems. ‘Never again!’ is said about each method – until the next time!

Another possible option is a full service agency that handles all fundraising communications to your donor-base. If this option attracts you, do check the agency’s references carefully and ensure that all parts of the agency are as professional as you need, not just, say, their direct mail department. Personally I feel that knowing your supporters and how best to fundraise from them is an NGO’s core competence not to be left, at its heart, to any agency.

Above all, whichever route is chosen, the reporting mechanisms must be first-rate so that feedback on fundraising activity is fast and thorough, allowing adjustments to be made constantly to the various programmes. Advertising, for example, needs daily feedback on response rates to allow press options to be fully exercised.

Departmental officers

A typical department of an organisation of 100,000 members and with £10M turnover could have:
A Fundraising Director to whom the rest of the department reports:
this is a management role involving little or no direct fundraising work. The Fundraising Director should be part of the senior management team and should report to the Director.
A Trading Officer who handles the catalogue and other merchandising
An Events Officer who organises national events and liaises with
any local groups structure.
A Membership Development Officer who handles

  • direct mail work (both prospecting for new members and organising internal appeals, including legacies and big gifts), loose-leaf inserts, advertising, and member-gets-member schemes.
  • the Membership Department, processing the income and membership records.
  • the Membership Newsletter. (This gives the organisation the means of developing that warm relationship with members that is essential if you are to maximise your income, though it may not be possible in an established NGO.)

A Company Officer who works with commercial companies and often
Trusts and Foundations as well.

A Regional Fundraising Officer.

This is often the first post that charities establish. A team of local fundraisers across the country reports to the Regional Fundraising Officer in establishing local fundraising drives, setting up local groups and seeking local publicity. It is a good idea to have one fundraising ‘Week’ in the year, supported by national advertising and concentrating on one or more activities like a door-to-door collection, flag-days or sponsored walks. This centralises the regional fundraisers’ functions, but depends very much on the establishment of a network of local supporters.
The officers listed above may need assistants, depending on their workload, and should have an ample supply of volunteers to call upon. This is particularly true of outside events. Volunteers who have helped with these functions in the past are invaluable.

In this kind of set-up you will also need the services of:
an advertising agency
a direct response company
possibly a separate mailing company
an external computer bureau
the occasional services of consultants as you expand into new areas.

The charity wing

Many campaigning organisations are legally split between a charitable wing that can receive Gift Aid donations, covenants and all other forms of charitable giving, and a membership-based campaigning wing to which people can belong as members, as well as giving donations. This is the case for organisations like Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and Amnesty International.
If your organisation has this arrangement, then, as well as the above posts, you may need a charity fundraiser who will solicit gifts from which tax can be reclaimed.

You must be very clear, however, exactly where you want the bulk of your income to go. If most of your work is undertaken by the non-charitable wing, then it cannot receive any money from the charity for non-charitable work, and you may be better off foregoing the reclaiming of tax paid and making sure that most of your income goes to the non-charitable body. The other way round is, however, quite acceptable and the charity can legally receive any money the non-charitable body cares to give it. (You will, naturally, want to make sure that donors’ wishes are respected.)
One twist to all this is that membership cannot, usually, be covenanted because a covenant is a promise to pay ‘for no material consideration’, and the usual newsletters and other membership services will amount to material consideration. Covenantors often think they are members, and there is actually no reason why you cannot send your covenantors a newsletter, so long as that has not been promised as an inducement to become a covenantor. You should also be careful not to confuse the covenantors, who may wish to vote as members, or the members, who may think they are members of the charitable trust.

It is quite normal for the charitable trust to grow in size until it is financially the largest partner – legacies are often the cause of this. All things being equal, any professional fundraising campaign will do rather better for a charity than a similar non-charity. People are used to Gift Aid and other forms of charitable giving. Legacies are, in any case, such a huge source of income for most organisations that they often deserve a staff post all to themselves (though this post is often combined with the trust officer’s position).

A key area for staffing is special events. This is often the area where the fundraising department starts. It is also traditionally an area with a chequered past. Many of the reasons for that are to do with events that have cost the organisation a lot of money at some time or other. The charismatic events organiser who comes to grief over a large-scale production is a familiar figure. Events can, however, be a very valuable source of income and sometimes, more importantly, a great profile-raiser for the work of the organisation.

Events, if they are to be of any size, need a team to run them. This means staff and volunteers. Even if your organisation does not normally use volunteers (why not?) events cry out for lots of dedicated assistance from lots of people. Paying for it all will knock a large hole in your profits. The number of staff will be determined by the number and scale of events, but there is usually a need for PA assistance, as the work consists both of high-level contacts and negotiations and the more mundane work of endless letters, phone calls, and extensive following up of promises and half-promises before the event, and thorough thanking of everyone after it. It also requires reasonable computer skills to organise the mailings lists and the records so that they can be used by other members of the team.

The trading manager role

Often the trading manager’s job grows out of the office manager’s position, (as does the volunteer manager’s job). Running a successful catalogue with 100,000 members, or even 50,000, is a full-time job, though the burden of work does vary through the year. This may be evened out partly by a spring catalogue, but these are not always successful. The trading manager will, of course, also develop the licensing deals and any merchandising operation to, or with, shops.

Corporate and trust approaches

Your organisation may be one which appeals strongly to the corporate sector. If the potential interest and income warrant it, a full-time corporate officer or even a whole team may be needed. Trusts, on the other hand, rarely require more than one person despite the huge number in existence. Again, this is really a matter for experience. If either sector responds on such a scale that you have difficulty keeping up with it, then the likely funds will outweigh any increased expenditure in this area. It is very important not to let a flood of enquiries go unanswered as this will give the impression that your work is as unprofessional as your fundraising, and you will lose donations.

The head of department

Naturally, you will need a head of department (HoD) to guide, motivate, monitor, praise and discipline the fundraising staff, and to set targets based on the budget and ensure they are met.

As the work expands the HoD will need to be aware of staff workloads and request assistance or new posts well before there is a crisis. The HoD needs to play a key role in the organisation’s long-term strategy development and planning.

The HoD should also be aware that fundraisers are ‘role’ based whereas most NGOs are ‘rule’ based, i.e. fundraisers see rules as a means to accomplish the task in hand, and if the rules obstruct this they will bend or seek to overthrow them, whereas the rest of the organisation will probably see rules as guidelines for good conduct in accomplishing tasks properly, and will be less than sympathetic to apparent breaches. In commercial companies the same dichotomy is apparent between marketing and research on the one hand, and the rest of the organisation, particularly accounts and production, on the other.