As recruitment consultants who are passionate about Community and Events fundraising and with 13 years of experience between us, Tanya White and Dawn Ballard have had the opportunity to work with many talented individuals in this field. One thing that stands out among those who have successfully upleveled their fundraising careers is a commitment to personal development. Personal development is essential to levelling up your fundraising career because it enables you to continuously improve your skills, expand your knowledge, and stay ahead of industry trends.
We have paired up with Sarah Goddard to bring you some tips and strategies to help you level up and grow as a fundraiser. Sarah is a values-driven Public Fundraising specialist with over 17 years of fundraising and leadership experience across the community, events and individual giving and brings these areas together as ‘Public Fundraising’.
How to level up as a community fundraiser
1. Know your community
“Your community” does not always translate to “your immediate geographic area”. In fact, if you are a community fundraiser working nationally or across a very large region or patch – that’s not going to be viable. So, as well as knowing what the big community events are in your area – knowing the people that make up your community is even more valuable.
Community fundraisers need to be superstars at this. Listen, learn and look at what you know about your supporters. Use your data to help you. What are the common interests, backgrounds, hobbies? What is their definition of community?
Sarah says “A fundraising assistant I once managed came to me after proactively doing some research on our volunteer speakers. He’d identified three key groups that our speakers fell into – all of them very different – and he had a plan for how to engage each group based on their interests and motivations. As his manager, I was VERY impressed!”
Don’t be afraid to delve into your data. Ask for help if you need to. You’ll be amazed at the insights you will get from working to understand your audiences better.
2. Build your fundraising squad
Whether you work at a large national charity, a small local cause or perhaps even as a sole fundraiser – you need your fundraising squad around you. Friends and colleagues – ideally from a wide range of causes, backgrounds and experiences that you can bounce ideas with, sense-check the…*ahem*…weirder moments with and learn from. Make that group as diverse as you possibly can to avoid ‘group think’.
Online networking groups such as the Facebook groups Fundraising Chat or Sarah’s group Public Fundraising Specialists can be a great place to post a bit about yourself and ask if anyone would be up for getting a virtual cuppa on Zoom or Teams to connect. LinkedIn is a great place to go to ask for support and guidance too – fundraisers are great at supporting each other.
Find a community: Fundraising can be a challenging and isolating field, but it doesn’t have to be. Find a community of peers who share your passion for fundraising and support each other. Join a professional association, attend meetups, or create your own network of like-minded individuals. Dawn has attended the Sussex Fundraisers group, and they can be found online on LinkedIn.
Sarah also commented “I’ve always been a part of networking groups, both in-person and virtual and I literally couldn’t do what I do without my fundraising friends around me. WhatsApp group chats for the win!”
3. Buddy up with an Individual Giving fundraiser
“When I was a Community Fundraising Manager, my role was seconded to the IG team. At the time I felt the two areas were like chalk and cheese – what could I possible learn? I could not have been more wrong, and it was the best career move I could have ever hoped for,” Sarah shares.
Community and IG are both about understanding our supporters, about inspiring them to take action, about giving them the opportunity to be part of the change they want to see in the world. Not only can community fundraisers learn from an IG experts’ processes, ways of structuring an ask and copywriting, but an IG-er can learn so much about stewardship, building authentic relationships and listening for that qualitative insight that data alone won’t show.
If you have an opportunity to work alongside or shadow any other colleagues, fundraising, marketing or service delivery, it will only ever be beneficial.
4. Build your ‘storybook’
Always have a selection of stories about the work your charity does on hand to tell, to weave into a thank you letter, to reference at a donor meeting – or for those moments you’re suddenly asked to ‘stand up and say a few words’.
Not sure where to start with your stories? Read everything your organisation puts out, talk to your frontline staff and talk to your volunteers. Your stories should be your biggest asset to inspire your supporters. And a fundraiser who can tell stories well will go far in their career – no matter what discipline(s) they’re working in.
More info on the importance of storytelling here
5. Be proactive, not just reactive
I see too many community fundraisers only responding to the many incoming enquiries, or doing the various other smaller tasks that don’t actually build relationships or generate income. They then find themselves without the time to be able to proactively reach out to the community or previous supporters. To be an awesome community fundraiser, you need to identify your key audiences, then know who the shortlist of people in that audience to talk to are – and then build the relationships ahead of making an ask.
6. Seek out feedback
In addition to all the hard work and dedication that goes into fundraising, it’s important to remember that seeking feedback can be crucial for growth and improvement. Seek feedback from colleagues, donors, and other stakeholders to gain insights into areas where you could improve. Embrace constructive criticism and use it to refine your skills and approach. By doing so, you’ll be better equipped to succeed in your efforts to make a positive impact.
7. Network strategically
Networking is important in any field, but it’s especially critical in fundraising. Identify key stakeholders and thought leaders in your area of focus and make an effort to connect with them. Have a think about who you should know? Attend industry events, participate in online forums, and seek out mentorship opportunities to expand your network and build relationships.
8. Set goals and track progress
As a fundraiser, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of your goals and how you plan to achieve them. By setting specific objectives and creating a plan to reach them, you can stay focused and motivated throughout the fundraising process. It’s also essential to track your progress regularly and adjust your approach as needed. This can be done every 3, 6, 9, and 12 months or as frequently as necessary to ensure that you are on track to meet your goals. By doing so, you can measure your success, identify areas for improvement, and make the necessary adjustments to uplevel your fundraising skills.
9. Look ahead
Don’t wait until you are unhappy or desperate to move on to a role to start looking at your next career step. A good fundraiser will keep sight of what opportunities are out there. This is not to say you should be jumping ship regularly. However, knowing what roles are out there will give you a good idea of what skills you might need to upskill in the meantime to ensure you are the best candidate for the role. Keep an eye on job boards on the Charity People website or other charity job hosts. Alternatively, you can sign up with a recruitment agency and speak to a consultant who will have regular oversight of the current market. We suggest giving us a call every 3 – 6 months so that we can keep you updated and also let you know if that extra special role you have always dreamed of lands on our desk.
10. Invest in your education
Fundraising requires a diverse set of skills and knowledge. Make a commitment to ongoing education and professional development. Attend conferences, enrol in courses or certifications, and seek out opportunities to learn from experts in your field. And finally – a bonus tip – push for your learning and development to be a priority. Community fundraising is a skill set that you can continually be working on and improving. Through networking events, webinars and training sessions, be continually learning.
Would you like to help ensure community fundraising at your charity has a plan, structure and knowledge that will see your income grow? Want to know more about how to be proactive not reactive, build your storybook, understand your community, learn from an IG expert and build your fundraising squad?
Sarah Goddard designed the Community Fundraising 101 which is a is a back-to-basics Community Fundraising training course designed to help every community fundraiser be even more awesome than they already are.
“This course gave me everything I was looking for: a full understanding of community fundraising and how to start from scratch being successful in it in the short and long term.
During this course itself, I used the practices that Sarah taught and secured multiple meetings with brand new community groups!” Konna Beeson , Fundraising Manager, Props Bristol
Find out more and book your place now; https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/community-fundraising-101-an-8-module-course-registration-629337865497
By focusing on personal development and growth, you can uplevel your fundraising skills and achieve your career goals. Remember to stay curious, seek feedback, and invest in your education. With dedication and hard work, you can make a positive impact through your fundraising efforts.
Written by Tanya White (Senior Recruitment Consultant) and Dawn Ballard (Senior Recruitment Consultant) in collaboration with Sarah Goddard (Public Fundraising consultant, specialising in Community, Events and Individual Giving)