What exactly IS Fundraising?

A quick look at CharityJob and you’ll see we have a number of different positions, some you might recognise, and others which are more ambiguous. One thing you’ll notice is that quite a few jobs are for fundraising. People inside the charity sector will be well aware of the nitty-gritty of fundraising, however, if your hail from the corporate world, things can seem a little confusing. You may have an image in your head, but fundraising is hardly rattling the donation tin on the high street. Read on to find out exactly what it is a fundraiser does.

So, if you’re looking for a career change into the charity sector and are wondering just what fundraising jobs are all about, then take a look at our introduction, which can help guide you into this exciting career path.

What is fundraising 2

So what is the job?

Fundraisers generate revenue for a charitable organisation through various means, their contribution is often the only thing keeping a charity functioning as most organisations do not receive any government grants. In order to raise this money, they will approach individual people, corporations, major donors, trusts and foundations as well as doing things like organising events, all in order to raise money for their particular cause. A fundraiser may be concerned with raising awareness for their charity’s cause, but fundamentally the purpose of charity fundraising is to develop and ultimately increase donations from the organisations and individuals they work with.

As digital technology begins to become an important part of the charity sector, fundraisers increasingly need to be creative and to become developers of new ideas in order to seek new donation sources.

There are all these different types of fundraisers, what do they do?

If you’re from outside of the charity sector, then these different types of fundraising careers can seem a little confusing, let’s break it down, there is:

  • Community
  • Corporate
  • Direct
  • Events
  • Individual Giving
  • Legacy
  • Major Donor
  • Trusts (and foundations)

But it is worth remembering that your job may fall between these lines, if you work for a larger charity you may have one of the specific roles above, whilst with a smaller organisation you could have a generic “fundraiser” title.

Community Fundraising

Unsurprisingly, community fundraisers work in the local community. They might be in charge of groups of volunteers or arrange fundraising events within a certain local area. Generally, they will be ensuring that donations and collections from a particular local community are secured and improved. Your job will be to support and secure funding by building positive relationships with the local community after all these are the people who keep the charity running! Depending on the size of the charity this could be anywhere from a smaller group of individuals to companies and even local government.

Corporate Fundraising

Corporate fundraisers will work with businesses in order raise to money, this will often be on the basis of a “corporate partnership” where the aim will be to create cooperation between a for-profit business and charity. So the job of corporate fundraising is nurturing relationships, which will ultimately prove mutually beneficial. The charity will gain income (naturally!) and the company will be associated with the name of the charity, they may get skills or advice. Regular updates as to how the cooperate partner’s money has been spent is often part of the job, they will often want to know exactly what their money has been spent on.

what is fundraising race

Direct Fundraising & Individual Giving Fundraising

Direct fundraising, is well… fundraising directly. In many ways, the practice is similar to direct marketing. Direct fundraising if often done through the mail, or via telemarketing, but is increasingly migrating to a digital world where e-mail and social media are replacing traditional methods.  Often direct fundraising can be done door to door or at street level, sometimes this is called individual giving. As well as being sociable and persuasive direct fundraisers will have some knowledge of data and its applications, often needing to be able to manage a donor database as part of their job.

Events Fundraising

Events are an important part of a charity’s calendar, and they can be a great way to raise money. The aim of events fundraising is to arrange events in the name of the charity’s cause and generate income via admittance to or services provided at the events. These events can be anything from a small village fete to the sponsorship of an international sporting competition. It may involve celebrities, be a sponsored “walkathon”… there no set rules, but the aim of events fundraising should be to generate both income, publicity and awareness by organising events in support of a charity’s cause.

Legacy Fundraising

You might have heard this phrase outside of a charity context, a legacy is essentially a gift left in someone’s will, in some circumstances they may have decided to leave a certain amount of money to charity. The job of a legacy fundraiser is to negotiate the legal and administrative task of securing these donations, as well as nurturing ongoing relationships with lifelong supporters in order to suggest a donation is left in their will.  A legacy fundraiser will need to be empathetic, patient and well versed on regulatory issues in order to do their job.

Major Donor Fundraising

Historically charities have often relied on a small number of high net worth individuals who provide large donations in order to form the backbone of their funding. These individuals are often called major donors, the job of the major donor fundraiser is all about creating lasting relationships with people who could be a source of these large donations. The job is both to seek out potential donors, but also nurture ongoing relationships with them in order to secure lasting income. So the job could be divided into research and prospecting as well donor care. Major donor fundraisers are often in high demand, the job requires a candidate to be an excellent communicator and negotiator, as well as being proficient in data and project management.

What exactly IS Fundraising?

Trusts (and foundations) Fundraising

Trusts and foundations are legal entities set up by a group, company or individual who wishes to set aside part of their money specifically for charitable giving. The job of a trusts and foundations fundraiser is to create income from these funds, they need to master the process of formally written applications, which are required by trusts and foundations, writing these funding applications is a skill in itself which is usually developed over a fundraiser’s career. Research is an important part of this type of fundraising, as an application will require a significant amount of research into the trust or foundation, as well as what the charity intends to do with the money. So trusts and foundations roles require candidates with strong writing and research skills, as well as good communication skills to maintain working relationships.

What next?

If you think a fundraising career could be the job for you, then check out our fundraising jobs or why not connect with people already working in the industry via CharityConnect. You might also want to take a look at how you can move into fundraising from the corporate sector.

Sanjay Bheenuck

Content and SEO Lead here at CharityJob. Writer of obscure fiction and global wanderer in my spare time.

Register now and find a career with meaning


Related article

From corporate to third sector: Have you considered a fundraising career?

Well, from the outside, the charity sector can sometimes seem a little impenetrable. Employers are often looking for a certain level of experience and knowledge of the not-for-profit world, which seems perpetually out of reach.

(On that note, volunteer work can be a great way to build this experience, why not check out our fundraising volunteer roles here.)

Now there will always be jobs in the sector which are highly desirable, minimal in availability and high in competition.  I’m sure anyone who has pursued roles in events, campaigning or marketing has experienced this. But a great way into the Charity sector is to pursue a fundraising career, fundraisers are in tremendous demand at the moment, as charities continue to seek new and creative revenue streams. You can even use your fundraising career as a stepping stone to other positions like campaigning or marketing.

So if you are considering a career shift into the third sector, you may want to give further consideration to a job in fundraising. If you have a background in sales, business development or marketing then your skills are very much transferable, and charities really are on the lookout for people like you!

Why fundraising?

You may ask, what is a fundraiser? What will I be doing? Well, this could vary significantly depending on the type of fundraising. But you will generally find yourself responsible for, or contributing towards, donation targets. This revenue could come from: corporations, private individuals, major donors, government grants, the general public and even services provided by the Charity! Don’t be frightened if you start on small scale, you may not be dealing with large corporate donors form the get-go. You may even find yourself developing creative new strategies for raising funds, as the sector changes and evolves.


Your first step might be to embark on some training, the IOF (Institute of Fundraising) offer a number of nationally recognized fundraising courses which could help you get your foot in the door.

Where can I go to learn more?

Then, you might want to have a look at what’s available to match your skill set. If you have experience in sales,  business development or marketing then make sure you tailor your CV to show that these skills are directly relevant to fundraising, and that your knowledge and experience are an asset to a hardworking Charity, rather than irrelevant skills from the cooperate sector.

Finally you will probably want to apply for something! Admittedly you might have to start small. Face to Face, street and telephone fundraising jobs are generally a  good stepping stone, and are great ways of building experience, before considering roles like cooperate and Major donor fundraising… these roles will always be highly competitive but if you’re interested you can take a look at more of these roles here.

So if you are looking for that career change, fundraising may be the field for you. You will find it competitive and dynamic, but also hugely rewarding. Consider taking some volunteer work, perhaps try a course with the IOF and remember that your skills are transferable, desirable and needed by the sector.  And remember, you can connecting with experienced people who are already in the sector on Charity Connect.

Sanjay Bheenuck

Content and SEO Lead here at CharityJob. Writer of obscure fiction and global wanderer in my spare time.

Register now and find a career with meaning


Related article

Career Tips from a Charity Champion: Megan Veronesi

Megan (2) cropMegan is Head of Service Development and Communications at Royal Trinity Hospice. Since joining in November 2014, Megan has been responsible for building the external profile of the hospice, developing new partnerships and initiating new service models. Prior to joining Trinity, Megan worked in the service development teams of national healthcare charities, Terrence Higgins Trust and Marie Curie.  Megan is Vice-Chair of the Lambeth Elfrida Rathbone Society, a charity supporting adults and young people with learning disabilities in South London, and a mentor for the non-profit graduate management scheme, Charityworks.

Fun fact? “I speak Italian with a Scottish accent and share my birthday with Winston Churchill.”

linkedin-button twitter-button
About the Royal Trinity Hospice
Royal Trinity Hospice provides free, skilled and compassionate care for people with progressive, life-limiting illnesses and those close to them. We support people living in our central and south-west London community, at home and at the hospice.  Our vision is to be the local hospice of choice for all those who need us and an example of excellence in end of life care.

1454597801-1900942-54x47-blog-button  twitter-buttonshutterstock_278925056


“A career should be like a pyramid. Don’t worry about trying lots of different types of roles. In the end you will end up with a sound base of experiences on which you can build you career. When you reach the top, you might just find that those odd skills you picked up here and there early on might just come in handy .”


How did you get into the charity sector?

“I graduated in Law and Italian and originally wanted to be an immigration lawyer. However after spell volunteering in the Citizens Advice Bureau in Scotland and at a legal advice clinic for asylum seekers in Wales, I knew I wanted to have an impact further ‘upstream’. I applied for the Charityworks Graduate Scheme and haven’t looked back.”

What made you stay and progress within the sector?

“It’s been a combination of things really. I’ve worked with some amazing people who make work enjoyable and I’ve also been fortunate to have had some great managers who have invested in me and encouraged me to progress. The feel-good factor at the end of the day knowing that your work hopefully benefitted someone else is also pretty gratifying.”

What’s the one thing that the charity sector provides that you can’t get anywhere else?

“Diversity, both in terms of the role and the people you encounter. One morning I can be looking at a contract for a new service, in the afternoon I’m speaking to producers about a documentary, and in the evening, I’m running a death cafe. I don’t think I would get that elsewhere. And charities tend to draw a whole range of people to the cause, meaning you come into contact with people that you wouldn’t ordinarily meet which I love.”

A range of #career experience can help your progression – Megan Veronesi explains why! #charity #NFP

Click to Tweet

Have you seen any major shifts in the way that charities and not for profits recruit?

“I think there has been growing investment in tapping into the graduate talent pool through schemes like Charityworks which is great to see. When I was on the programme in 2010, there were 10 of us and now there are over 100 graduates in the scheme across a huge range of not for profit organisations.”

Why is it important to challenge ourselves and experience a number of different roles?

“Personally, taking on new challenges definitely helps to keep me motivated.  You might learn you have a talent for something you never knew about. I also think having tried various roles means you have a better understanding of the impact of your decisions in the context of the wider organisation, which can only be a good thing.”

How can building a diverse skill set help with career progression?

“In the charity sector more than most, funding constraints means charities are looking for staff who  bring a wide range of skills and can turn their hand to various tasks.”

What would you say to encourage someone who is considering moving to the charity sector and isn’t sure what role suits them?

“Volunteering is a great way to get a feel for a role before you make the leap. You could also have a chat to someone working in a charity as there are lots of roles specific to the sector which people don’t know about, like fundraising or volunteer management.”

Does your current role resonate with your own values? And how did your values guide you in your career?

“I’ve always been someone who fights for the underdog and that’s been a pretty consistent theme throughout my career.  Even now, one of the most interesting parts of my work is trying to challenge some of the inequalities around end of life care.”

What’s the next step for you? Where would you like your career to go?

“Who knows?! I’m not too prescriptive as I like being open to what comes my way. One day I’d like to be involved with an organization with an international focus as I’ve always been a big traveller and I love meeting people from around the world.”

Ready to put Megan’s advice to the test? Challenge yourself with a career shift by looking at the amazing opportunities that CharityJob has to offer… 

Sanjay Bheenuck

Content and SEO Lead here at CharityJob. Writer of obscure fiction and global wanderer in my spare time.

Register now and find a career with meaning