While a non-profit fundraising professional has a relatively focused set of core responsibilities, these functions appear to translate into a highly varied set of daily activities.
- An extensive review of career outlets (e.g., Truity, Career Planner), education trades (e.g., Study.com), job aggregators (e.g., PayScale) and sample fundraiser job descriptions (e.g., Chief Development Officer) indicates that the core responsibilities of a non-profit fundraiser typically revolve around four essential areas: developing and maintaining donors, creating fundraising opportunities, managing staff and volunteers and defining and implementing the organization’s long-term development plan.
- Also known as a development officer, Study.com highlights the fact that the central role of a non-profit fundraiser is to “solicit and secure donations.”
- As such, Truity notes that developing and maintaining donors is one of the most essential job responsibilities of this position, and includes a range of activities such as researching potential donors, creating tailored fundraising messages, attending/presenting at public events, establishing and growing individual donor relationships and maintaining donor record information.
- In tandem with these more focused efforts around individual donations, Career Planner adds that a fundraiser also determines and implements creative group fundraising opportunities, such as employer gift-matching programs, fundraising drives (e.g., annual giving campaigns), special events (e.g., silent auctions, dances, golf outings) and, more recently, web-based fundraising activities.
- Depending on the level of the development officer, the position will also have responsibilities associated with managing employees and training volunteers.
- Meanwhile, Career Planner, PayScale and fundraiser job descriptions also frequently mention the administrative responsibilities of non-profit fundraisers, which range from lower-level duties (such as managing the budgets/expense reports of fundraising activities) to more senior-level activities (including working with a non-profit’s CEO and larger leadership team to develop the long-term development plan for an organization).
Day in the Life
- Notably, fundraiser trades (e.g., Raise-Funds, Classy) and career outlets (e.g., The Career Files) consistently report that this relatively focused set of core responsibilities translate into highly varied, “multi-faceted” daily schedules.
- While Classy and Raise-Funds indicate that approximately half of a development officer’s time is split on planning fundraising campaigns (25%) and managing fundraising campaigns (25%), the remaining half of a fundraiser’s day is divided into a variety of other activities.
- As highlighted within the infographic at the end of this brief, significant time is also devoted to cultivating prospective donors (10%), recruiting and training volunteers (15%) and staff (5%), budgeting and forecasting (5%) and remaining educated about current trends and innovations in the industry (10%).
- However, Classy and The Career Files note that the typical “day in the life” of a non-profit fundraiser can vary significantly depending on the level of the position.
- For example, a lower-level fundraising associate will generally spend the day in team meetings, on emails and calls about upcoming events and updating information on a corporate website.
- In contrast, a more senior development officer is likely to spend time every day prospecting new donors, overseeing events, joining lunch meeting(s) with senior team members/donors and on other higher-level planning activities.
Key Skill Requirements
- Meanwhile, the skills held by the most successful non-profit fundraisers generally have more to do with temperament and personality than hard qualifications, according to industry experts (e.g., Classy, Study.com, Truity, Raise-Funds)
- Notably, Classy, Study.com and Truity are among the preponderance of credible media sources that indicate that, while there are no formal degrees associated with a career as a fundraiser, employers almost always require a bachelor’s degree if not a master’s degree for such roles.
- In particular, Study.com reports that degrees in public relations, communications, journalism and business are generally recommended as areas of study for development officer roles, given the fact that fundraiser positions require general skills around communication, working with others and organization.
- Additionally, more senior fundraiser positions (e.g., Chief Development Officer) appear to also require significant fundraising experience, potential certifications (e.g., CFRE) and industry association participation.
- However, fundraiser trades (e.g., Raise-Funds, Classy) emphasize that the “temperament to succeed” is the most important skill for development officers.
- Specifically, the personal traits of being adaptable, resilient, cool-headed and relationship-oriented are considered to be the four most essential qualities for an effective fundraising professional.