How to Get Into a Fundraising Career
Take a quick peek at all the jobs currently on CharityJob, notice something? Quite a lot of them are fundraising jobs! If you don’t know what that is, we have a great post that breaks down everything about fundraising. These jobs can often be some of the most important positions within an organisation and can be incredibly rewarding.
The aim of charity fundraising is to raise money for an organisation by acquiring donations. The fundraising profession is perhaps the most in-demand in the charity sector. It can be an excellent chance to start or progress a charity career. You’ll have chances to experience the inner workings of a charity and will be recognised as a valuable member of staff. Whether you’re starting out, or looking for a career change, fundraising can be a great route into the charity sector.
How to start a fundraising career
There are no set career paths when it comes to fundraising. No specific degree or educational pathway is required. Though there are some graduate and entry level positions. It may also be worth checking out some courses offered by our partners at the Institute of Fundraising as these may be expected higher up the fundraising career ladder.
Keep in mind that, although fundraising may seem difficult to get into, the career highly in demand. Though adverts may seem to have unrealistically high demands (we’ve written in more detail about this ) charities are always on the lookout for great fundraisers and great people who have the transferable skills to become fundraisers. One of the skills you’ll need to start a career in fundraising is persistence, you really do need to just keep going!
Be transferable: Fundraising IS sales (or marketing, or business development, or PR! I’ll stop now.)
This is a fact the charity sector is slowly waking up to. Not every fundraiser need be from a fundraising background. The real work of a fundraiser is to secure revenue to keep their organisation running. This is very much like a sales person. A sales person’s job is to convince a potential customer that their service or product is the right one for them. This is essentially the same with fundraising. Essentially a fundraiser will aim to convince an individual or organisation, of the value of their donation, what it could bring and what it will deliver.
Much the same can be said for marketing, even PR and business development. These skills are all transferable to the charity sector! Just make sure that you present your skills and experience as being relevant to a fundraising career. Show how your sales/marketing skills match up with the fundraising job description. You’ll be much more likely to get a successful response. It’s all about making your skills seem pertinent to the fundraising job you’re applying for. We know they are, you just need to convince the charity of that as well.
You’ll always need to make sure you apply with a unique cover letter, explain your relevant experience. Have a charity sector CV, highlighting how your corporate sector experience is directly relevant to the fundraising position.
Get experience, then work your way up! Sounds a lot like the corporate sector right? Well in many ways it is. Face to face and street level fundraising positions are almost always available, they often require little to no experience. Performing well in this level of fundraising can allow you to move into other areas of an organisation, or possibly a management position. Even direct marketing can be a place to start! These may not be the most desirable roles, but recruitment can be quite buoyant for them. A good performance in direct fundraising can be your route to other areas or management.
If you have the time, or maybe if you’re still a student, you can start getting some fundraising experience by volunteering. You can even volunteer as a fundraiser! When it comes to making that first paid job application you can include volunteering experience alongside work and education. This could increase your chances of getting that fundraising job. Volunteering is an excellent way to gain charity sector experience. This is true even if you don’t end up pursuing a fundraising career. It’s worth remembering that some charities don’t advertise their positions on public job boards. So joining in a voluntary role can be a way of getting your foot in the door and seeing what’s available.
Connect, interact & speculate
It can sometimes be the case that the charity sector is somewhat of a “who you know” business. Many fundraisers don’t apply through traditional means. Often the successful ones will work hard to build a great network in the sector. Sending your CV speculatively is not always a bad idea when it comes to fundraising jobs. The art is to ensure that it finds its way to the right person. Do some research and networking. Make sure you know who your application is going to. Follow up with a phone call or e-mail if possible (but don’t pester of course!)
Fundraisers and other professionals from all over the sector regularly use CharityConnect. The professional network for the sector, to discuss methods of pursuing a charity career. Take a look at the fundraising and charity careers groups for some essential advice.
Whether it’s online or at events (run by the IOF and others) you should aim to meet, interact and network with as many fundraising professionals as possible. Take a look at what events the IOF offer, there could be something that’s right for you. Even if you find your way into the charity sector through a non-fundraising role, you can aim to make the transition by building up a great list of contacts and people who could be of help. Fundraisers talk! They are community driven and always interacting with the sector, these are fantastic practices to get into if you’re considering the career.