What is Fundraising? And How Do You Become a Fundraiser?

5 minute read

Want to change career and think you might like to become a fundraiser? You’ve come to the right place! Far from just rattling a donation tin on the high street, read on to find out what fundraising is, the different types of fundraising, what charitable fundraisers actually do and which roles might suit you.

So what is fundraising and why is it so important?

At its most basic level, fundraising is generating revenue for charitable organisations so they can support a cause. This money is often the only thing keeping a charity functioning, as most organisations don’t receive any government grants.

What does a fundraiser do? How do you become one?

To generate revenue, fundraisers will approach individual people, corporations, major donors (wealthy individuals) and trusts and foundations, as well as organising events of all types.

Now digital technology is an ever-important part of the charity sector, fundraisers increasingly need to be creative and develop new ideas to seek new donation sources.

You don’t need any special qualifications to become a fundraiser (although some volunteering experience would definitely help). Moving into a fundraising role from a different sector is all about transferable skills. Below, we explain what each type of fundraising involves, some of the useful skills you could have gained from outside the sector and some of the roles you could transfer from.

Women sits at computer screen that displays the words 'Make a donation'

Types of fundraising  

The different types of fundraising you may come across are:

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

But it’s 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, but with a smaller organisation you could have a generic ‘fundraiser’ job title that encompasses a bit of several (or all) of them.

A close-up of a white book in a pile with the title Fundraising Plan

Community Fundraising

Also called: local 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 area. Your job will be to secure funding by building positive relationships with the local community. Depending on the size of the charity, you could be working with a smaller group of individuals, companies or even local government.

Generally, you will be collecting and increasing donations, and supporting locals to hold events such as bake sales, quizzes and sponsored challenges. There’s also a growing digital angle to community fundraising, as more supporters, and charities themselves, use the internet to fundraise. Sites like JustGiving.com are becoming increasingly popular for things like crowdfunding, as is social media where you can do things like set up a fundraiser for your birthday on Facebook.

Transferable skills

Organisation, customer service, relationship management, social media, volunteer management, analytical mind, data management

This role could particularly suit you if you’ve previously worked as…

Events manager, project manager, volunteer coordinator

Browse community fundraising roles

Corporate Fundraising

Also called: corporate partnerships/partnerships fundraising

Corporate fundraisers work with businesses to raise money. There are different types of corporate fundraising but this will often be on the basis of a ‘corporate partnership’ to create cooperation between a for-profit business and a charity. So the job of corporate fundraising is to nurture mutually beneficial relationships. The charity gains income and the company is associated with the charity and may gain skills or advice. Corporate fundraisers will also need to give regular updates on exactly how the corporate partner’s money has been spent.

Transferable skills

Relationship management, analytical mind, writing, communication, research, CRM, persuasion, presentation

This role could particularly suit you if you’ve previously worked as…

Business development manager, sales executive

Browse corporate fundraising roles

A team of people around a sign on a table that reads 'Fundraising'

Direct Fundraising & Individual Giving Fundraising

Also called: direct marketing

Direct fundraising is well… fundraising directly. In many ways, the practice is similar to direct marketing as it’s linked with specific appeals. Direct fundraising is still sometimes done through the mail, or via telemarketing, but email and social media are steadily 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, including GDPR, often needing to manage a donor database as part of their job.

Transferable skills

Relationship-building, persuasion, customer-service, communication, social media, data, writing, creativity

This role could particularly suit you if you’ve previously worked as…

Sales executive, marketeer, customer service executive

Browse direct fundraising and individual giving roles

Events Fundraising

Also called: challenge events fundraising

Events are an important part of a charity’s calendar and can be a great way to raise money. The aim of events fundraising is to arrange events, or organise for supporters to take part in pre-arranged events (such as the London Marathon) and generate income via sponsorship, admittance to or services provided there. There are many different types of fundraising events—they can be anything, from a small village fete to the sponsorship of an international sporting competition involving celebrities. But they should generate income, publicity and awareness for the charity and its cause.

Transferable skills

Organisation, project management, relationship building, social media, email marketing, teamwork, budget management, CRM systems

This role could particularly suit you if you’ve previously worked as…

Events manager, project manager, marketeer

Browse events fundraising roles

Man dressed as Spiderman running marathon to raise funds for events fundraising

Legacy Fundraising

Also called in memory/gifts in will fundraising

A legacy is a gift left in someone’s will. The job of a legacy fundraiser is to nurture ongoing relationships with lifelong supporters to suggest a donation is left to the charity in their will. They then negotiate the legal and administrative task of securing these donations.  A legacy fundraiser will need to be empathetic, patient and well-versed on regulatory issues.

Transferable skills

Relationship-building, persuasion, customer service, administration, legal, communication, empathy, creativity

This role could particularly suit you if you’ve previously worked as…

Sales executive, marketeer, paralegal

Browse legacy fundraising roles

Major Donor Fundraising

Also called major gifts/principle gifts

Sometimes a small number of high net worth individuals making large donations forms the bulk of a charity’s funding. Major donor fundraisers create lasting relationships with people who could be a source of these large donations. They both seek out potential major donors and nurture ongoing relationships to secure lasting income. So the job comprises research, prospecting and donor care. Major donor fundraisers are often in high demand, as they need to be excellent communicators and negotiators and proficient in data and project management.

Transferable skills

Relationship building, persuasion, writing, communication, research, project management

This role could particularly suit you if you’ve previously worked as…

Business development manager, sales executive

Browse major donor fundraising roles

Two men having a conversation in an office

Trusts (and foundations) Fundraising

Also called grants fundraising

Trusts and foundations are legal entities set up by a group, company or individual who wishes to set aside money specifically for charitable giving. Trusts and foundations fundraisers obtain income from these funds through the process of a formally written application. Writing these is a skill in itself that is usually developed over a fundraiser’s career.

Research is an important part of this type of fundraising, as an application requires a significant amount of research into the trust or foundation, as well as what the charity intends to do with the money. So these roles require candidates with strong writing and research skills, as well as good communication skills to maintain working relationships.

Transferable skills

Project management, writing, eye for detail, influencing, research, finance

This role could particularly suit you if you’ve previously worked as…

Project manager, marketeer, finance officer

Browse trusts and foundations roles

What next?

Inspired by one of these roles? If you think fundraising could be the career for you, then check out our career guides. Or why not browse our fundraising jobs or volunteer roles to get started? Good luck!

This post was originally published in 2017 by Sanjay Bheenuck and has been fully updated to ensure relevance and to reflect the current job seeker experience.

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