To become a charity fundraiser you'll need to have excellent communications skills and the enthusiasm to drum up support for your organisation

As a charity fundraiser, your remit is to increase the contributions of individuals and groups to a charity by building relationships and exploring new fundraising opportunities from various sources.

You'll need to be able to network, since success in the role depends heavily on being able to forge positive relationships with supporters. Another area of your role will be to raise awareness of the charity's work, aims and goals.

Types of charity fundraiser

Your fundraising title will normally be categorised according to the types of donors you focus on:

  • Corporate fundraisers raise money from businesses in various ways, from organising payroll giving to agreeing sponsorship of major events. This may suit someone with a good understanding of business.
  • Trust and statutory fundraisers bid for trust and grant money. This may appeal more to people who enjoy research and preparing proposals.
  • Community fundraisers are the main point of contact for most mainstream fundraising involving members of the public. Community fundraising will suit those who can work with people from all walks of life and are keen to get involved in a variety of fundraising activities.
  • Major donor fundraisers focus on developing relationships with key supporters who can donate high-value gifts. Often this is a role to which experienced fundraisers progress.
  • Legacy fundraisers encourage supporters to consider leaving a gift to the charity in their will. This type of fundraising may suit people with an interest in law or accountancy.

In larger charities you'll usually specialise in one particular area of donation. In smaller charities, you may cover several types of fundraising.

Responsibilities

As a charity fundraiser, you'll need to:

  • motivate and facilitate supporters to maximise the funds they raise
  • inspire new supporters to raise money, while maintaining and developing relationships with existing supporters
  • organise traditional activities, such as sponsored outdoor events and house-to-house collections of donated goods and money
  • develop new and imaginative fundraising activities, many of which involve organising events
  • raise awareness of the charity and its work at local and national levels, e.g. giving talks to groups or seeking photo opportunities with the media
  • develop and coordinate web-based fundraising, online auctions and merchandise sales
  • increase funds by researching and targeting charitable trusts whose criteria match the charity's aims and activities
  • develop and implement a strategy for individual and corporate supporter recruitment and development
  • recruit, organise and manage volunteers to carry out various functions within the charity
  • oversee corporate fundraising, including employee giving and matched giving from employers
  • manage and update databases to record donor contact and preference information
  • write applications and mail-shots, using direct mailing to reach a range of potential and current donors
  • make risk analyses and balancing time-cost ratios to focus effort on the fundraising activities that are most appropriate and will have the highest chance of success.

Salary

  • Starting salaries for a charity fundraiser can be anywhere between £15,000 and £22,000.
  • As you rise to a more senior position you could be earning £25,000 to £40,000.
  • At director level you could be earning in the region of £60,000, sometimes more.
  • In Scotland, many charities follow the Scottish Joint Council (SJC) Salary Scales when setting wages.

Performance-related pay is generally discouraged by the bodies that monitor the activities of charities, although it's not completely outlawed.

Charity fundraisers may be provided with a company car.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

You'll generally work 35 hours per week but the exact number will depend on the charity. Larger charities may offer flexible working. Availability to work out of hours is often required, e.g. to attend evening or weekend events and meetings. Time off in lieu is usually offered.

Around 40% of voluntary sector staff work part time. Job-sharing and career breaks are possible. Self-employment and freelance consultancy are possible, usually after a few years' experience.

What to expect

  • Fundraisers are increasingly based at home with regional offices, which may be some distance away. You'll be expected to be out meeting supporters for a significant portion of your time.
  • Around 65% of staff in the voluntary sector are women, according to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) UK Civil Society Almanac 2017.
  • Short-term contracts are common, especially in event fundraising, and this can result in job uncertainty.
  • Vacancies arise throughout the UK, although most opportunities occur in larger population centres. Some types of fundraising, such as corporate and major giving, are more commonly based in London.
  • You may be required to travel frequently during the day, with occasional absence from home overnight.

Qualifications

Charity fundraising is open to all graduates and those with an HND qualification. Having a degree will usually give you an advantage when applying and for some posts it will be an essential entry requirement.

A qualification or experience in marketing, media or business may also be helpful.

The field of international development is particularly competitive and so a relevant undergraduate or Masters degree is desirable.

Taking a fundraising training course is another route into a fundraising career, although these often form part of training within employment. For further information about available courses, contact the Institute of Fundraising or see VolResource.

Skills

You will need to show:

  • commitment to your charity's cause
  • the ability to build and maintain relationships
  • creativity, imagination and an entrepreneurial attitude towards fundraising
  • a proactive attitude, drive and enthusiasm to carry out projects to conclusion
  • the ability to influence others using excellent communication skills
  • the capability to work under pressure and meet deadlines
  • the ability to meet financial targets
  • good organisational and project management skills
  • the ability to motivate others and work as part of a team
  • resilience, particularly when faced with setbacks
  • sensitivity to the needs of volunteers and donors
  • a willingness to carry out a range of administrative tasks.

Work experience

Relevant skills and experience will almost certainly be an essential requirement and many employers consider this to be more important than your subject of study. You can gain experience through volunteering or working as a fundraising assistant. It's crucial to take every available opportunity as charity fundraising is a popular and competitive area to break into.

Charities look favourably on any experience gained in marketing, public relations, events, advertising, sales and finance.

Some larger charities offer internships, which can provide valuable work experience and sometimes lead to permanent posts.

Employers

There are 853,000 people employed in the voluntary sector and this number has increased by 27,000 since 2015 (NCVO UK Civil Society Almanac 2017).

Fundraising may be a more protected activity than some other areas of employment within the sector, since its role is crucial to helping charities survive.

Typical employers are charities, although their size, structure and purpose vary tremendously. Other organisations that employ fundraisers include:

  • hospitals
  • educational establishments
  • arts organisations
  • churches
  • political parties
  • other local, national and international fundraising agencies.

The main characteristic of these organisations is that they are dedicated to the promotion of a particular cause rather than to making a profit.

Look for job vacancies at:

The organisation Charityworks runs a graduate development programme.

Jobs are normally advertised, but some employers will accept speculative applications. Senior posts are often filled from the commercial sector.

Recruitment consultancies specialising in the not-for-profit sector are an important source of job vacancies:

Volunteering vacancies are increasingly advertised on regional job vacancy websites. When looking for volunteering opportunities, try:

Professional development

Training is primarily on the job. Expect responsibility and autonomy early, with opportunities to work in various roles.

It's likely you'll be given the opportunity to complete some short courses, tailored for the not-for-profit sector, ranging from foundation-level courses for new starters, to specialist and experienced fundraiser courses in, for example, legacy or corporate fundraising.

You can find further details on the following websites:

Undertaking these courses will enable you to examine different methods of raising money and resources. You'll also learn new and innovative ways of approaching work, and have the opportunity to network.

You can pursue professional qualifications in order to open new career avenues. Becoming a member of the Institute of Fundraising provides evidence of your professional status and may become a requirement for career advancement in the future.

Career prospects

Larger charities with a fundraising department and an established staffing structure may offer greater scope for promotion and career development. In smaller charities you will usually gain an excellent breadth of experience due to being responsible for a wide range of fundraising activities.

Your career path in fundraising might involve moving from volunteering to fundraising officer, then to fundraising manager, head of fundraising in a small charity or a middle management role in a large charity. Eventually possibly becoming a director of fundraising in a small charity, or head of a fundraising department in a large charity.

If you want to specialise in a particular area, such as corporate or trust fundraising, there will be more opportunities in larger charities since they are more likely to have several fundraising teams. Large charities also require the full range of business functions, so you could move into specialist areas such as operations, database management or marketing and communications.

The skills you develop as a fundraiser, such as strategic thinking, project management, networking and public relations, are useful and highly valued by employers both within and outside the voluntary sector. Highlighting your commercial awareness and business skills may help with a sideways move into the private or public sector. Corporate social responsibility is a growing area where jobs may emerge.