If you’ve been following us (and I’m sure you have!) you’ll notice, we’ve written an introduction to fundraising and a guide to starting a fundraising career. But, at some point, the dreaded moment is going to come when you’ll need to write the first cover letter. But don’t worry, we’re here to make it just a little bit less dreadful and give some essential advice on writing a fundraising cover letter.
Expression of interest that is. Charities are interested in people who are interested in them. In other words, you must show what has drawn you towards that particular charity, is it a cause you care about? (hint: it should be!) We all understand how many jobs you need to apply to these days, but put yourself in the charity’s shoes, they want a fundraiser who genuinely cares about their cause, not someone who’s just applied to everything. This goes to say, you should NEVER use a generic or copy-pasted cover letter, all this will do is get your application rejected.
Great, you’ve shown all that brimming enthusiasm. It’s time to show off all that experience! Your fundraising cover letter should show the charity you’re applying to how you’ll raise the revenue they need to keep running. If you’re an experienced fundraiser, this can be quite simple, explain what work you’ve done and most importantly show your results! (without bragging of course.) This gets a little harder if you’re applying to your first fundraising position, or if you’re looking to shift careers. The aim, in this case, will be to demonstrate how your experience is transferable. It may be sales, marketing, PR or something else entirely. Just make sure you clearly show how your skills would be useful in a fundraising environment.
Channel your inner Hemmingway when writing your cover letter, if it’s not essential-cut it-as most employers, even in the charity sector, will not read more than a page. 500 hundred words should be considered the limit unless the job ad states otherwise. The cover letter should demonstrate, as much as possible, your suitability for the job, in the shortest word count. Another thing to bear in mind is to ensure you don’t repeat anything that’s covered on your CV; employers really don’t like to read things twice.
It’s easy to overlook, and even easier to get wrong, but it’s often impossible to recall. Before you click that apply button, make sure you’ve gone over the cover letter with a fine tooth comb. Little mistakes to you can appear pretty glaring to a prospective employer. The higher end of fundraising jobs will require you to write grants and applications; they are going to want someone who doesn’t easily make mistakes.
Fundraising is an active profession; you’re going always need to be on top of your craft. To reflect this, you should avoid using passive language. Be forward and active with your wording. You can find more about this here. End your cover letter strongly; you can even request an interview if you’re feeling very forward.
Let the charity know you’ll follow up – which you should do anyway – so if you don’t hear back from the employer, then make sure you get in contact with them. A lot of charities will not have the budget to use recruitment agencies so you may not hear back at every stage of the application. So, do follow up, but don’t hassle the charity, make sure you’re civil throughout the application process.
Here’s a few resources that can help you get involved in the world of fundraising and work towards a professional fundraising career.