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

Charity fundraisers are employed primarily to increase the contributions of individuals and groups to a charity by building relationships and exploring new fundraising opportunities from various sources.

The ability to network is paramount for this job, since success in the role depends heavily on being able to forge positive relationships with supporters.

Fundraisers also work to raise awareness of the charity's work, aims and goals.

Types of charity fundraiser

Charity fundraisers tend to be categorised according to the types of donors on whom they focus.

The main categories of fundraising are:

  • 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 - the main point of contact for most mainstream fundraising involving members of the public. It 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 may suit people with an interest in law or accountancy.

In larger charities, fundraisers are likely to specialise in one particular area of donation. In smaller charities, a single fundraiser may cover several types of potential donors.

Responsibilities

The various types of fundraising involve different activities, but typically you would be responsible for:

  • motivating and facilitating supporters to maximise the funds they raise;
  • inspiring new supporters to raise money, while maintaining and developing relationships with existing supporters;
  • organising traditional activities, such as sponsored outdoor events and house-to-house collections of donated goods and money;
  • developing new and imaginative fundraising activities, many of which involve organising events;
  • raising awareness of the charity and its work at local and national levels, e.g. by giving talks to groups or seeking photo opportunities with the media;
  • developing and coordinating web-based fundraising, online auctions and merchandise sales;
  • increasing funds by researching and targeting charitable trusts whose criteria match the charity's aims and activities;
  • developing and implementing a strategy for individual and corporate supporter recruitment and development;
  • recruiting, organising and managing volunteers to carry out various functions within the charity;
  • overseeing corporate fundraising, including employee giving and matched giving from employers;
  • managing and updating databases to record donor contact and preference information;
  • writing applications and mail-shots, using direct mailing to reach a range of potential and current donors;
  • making risk analyses and balancing time-cost ratios to focus effort on the most appropriate fundraising activities with the highest chance of success.

Salary

Salaries vary significantly depending on the size and location of the charity and the type of fundraising involved. Salaries at some levels and for particular jobs may be good, but pay in the charitable sector does not always reflect pay for equivalent private sector jobs.

  • Starting salaries for an assistant role can be as low as £15,000, though are likely to start around at £18,000 to £22,000 in London. Salaries rise to £26,000 with more experience.
  • In Scotland, many charities follow the Scottish Joint Council (SJC) Salary Scales for Scottish local authorities, with salary points on the scale depending on a post's level of responsibility. The Charityworks Graduate Management Programme offers a salary of £15,000.
  • With several years' experience, charity fundraisers (often in lower management positions) can earn between £25,000 and £32,000.
  • At senior management or director level, salaries are usually around £40,000 to £50,000, though a few very senior directors receive salaries up to and over £100,000.

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

Charity fundraisers may be provided with a company car.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

You would generally work 35 hours per week but this depends 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.

Nearly 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 would be expected to be out meeting supporters for a significant portion of your time.
  • Over 65% of staff in the voluntary sector are women (NCVO UK Civil Society Almanac, 2015).
  • Employers sometimes favour short-term contracts, especially in event fundraising, as future funding may be uncertain. Lack of funding for sufficient support staff may be an issue, particularly in smaller charities, as many charities have seen a drop in income.
  • 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.
  • Generally, staff are well looked after and supported in pursuit of a healthy work-life balance.
  • Travel during the working day may be frequent, with occasional absence from home overnight, as fundraisers may have to cover a large geographical area. Fundraisers often spend a significant part of their time driving. Overseas work or travel is uncommon, unless the employing charity is involved in activities outside the UK.

Qualifications

Charity fundraising is a popular, and therefore competitive, area of work. It is open to all graduates and those with an HND qualification, and having a degree may give you an advantage when applying.

For some posts, a degree is an essential entry requirement and 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 the cause of the charity;
  • the ability to build and maintain relationships - a crucial skill in all areas of fundraising;
  • 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 with excellent oral and written 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, as many charities need their staff to be multiskilled.

Work experience

Recent graduates are rarely accepted without relevant experience and employers consider relevant skills and experience to be more important than your subject of study.

Experience can usually be gained through volunteering and the most common routes into charity fundraising are to volunteer for a charity or to work as a fundraising assistant. Many employers ask for significant experience and so it is crucial to take every available opportunity.

Charities look favourably on experience in marketing, public relations, events, advertising, sales and finance. You need not have had long-term experience with one organisation, nor is full-time experience expected.

Voluntary work experience provides evidence of your interest and commitment to working in the not-for-profit sector and gives an opportunity to develop valuable networks within the sector.

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

Posts are normally advertised, but speculative applications are acceptable. Senior posts are often filled from the commercial sector.

Employers

There are over 820,000 people employed in the voluntary sector and this number has increased by 32% over the last 12 years. (NCVO UK Civil Society Almanac, 2015)

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:

Recruitment consultancies specialising in the not-for-profit sector are an important source of job vacancies. UK-wide agencies include:

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

Get more tips on how to find a job, create a successful CV and cover letter, and prepare for interviews.

Professional development

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

Work may be supported by 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.

Courses for both new and experienced fundraisers are offered by:

These courses offer participants the opportunity to network, learn new and innovative ways of approaching work, and examine different methods of raising money and resources.

Many graduates in charity fundraising pursue professional qualifications to distinguish themselves and open new career avenues. This trend is likely to grow. Charities are increasingly looking for staff with membership of the Institute of Fundraising as evidence of professional status and this 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 scope for promotion and career development within the organisation. In smaller charities, one individual is often responsible for a range of fundraising activities, which provides an excellent breadth of experience.

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.

At the top end, moves may be possible to become director of fundraising in a small charity or head of a fundraising department in a large charity. As in most professions, the higher you climb on a career ladder, the tougher it becomes, as there is stiff competition for a smaller number of jobs.

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.