An (almost) guaranteed way to break into the not-for-profit sector

Posted on Mar 13, 2014 02:04 PM |

Talk to a small group of leaders in almost any not-for-profit organisation about how they got started in the sector, and you’ll quickly find that one of the most common ways to start out is as a fundraiser.

Just about every not-for-profit relies on donations for some of its work, and that means a good fundraiser can be worth their weight in gold (well, almost).

But the most interesting thing for job-seekers is that many people move on from fundraising into more senior roles in NFP organisations – the skills and insights that fundraising can provide seems to prove invaluable for many other NFP roles.

So, if you’re looking for a way to break into a career making the world a better place (and if talking or writing to people about how they can help change the world is your idea of a dream job), then maybe you should think about a job in fundraising.

What makes a good fundraiser?

Could you have the perfect personality for fundraising? Fundraisers are crucial to not-for-profit organisations. They’re typically inspiring, well organised, well-paid - and those in fundraising can love their job.

But a recent Australian study shows that the chief factor in successful fundraising is simply… good people skills. So, if good conversation is your forte, fundraising should fit you like a glove.

And with good reason: fundraisers get to deal with a wide variety of people within the organisation and they often enjoy the freedom to go out and talk up a social and environmental cause at public events, homes and in boardrooms.

Plus active fundraising can take you to exciting places such as festivals, sporting events, concerts and even on adventures – international adventure and tours are one of the fastest-growing trends in fundraising!

Charity research participants

Some of the charities that have pooled their data to provide a picture of the giving patterns of Australians for the Pareto Fundraising study.

So how do people get into fundraising?

There’s no one entry point that stands out. Unlike some other professions, fundraising isn’t generally something you study first, then do.

For young people, doing face-to-face fundraising (usually on the street, or door to door) or phone fundraising are the most common and easiest ways to get started.

Face-to-face fundraising – which includes anything that’s designed to initiate personal engagement with a donor, and a lasting relationship with the organisation – usually requires no prior experience or qualifications, so it’s super-easy to get started in.

While standing on the street or knocking on doors is not always easy work, if you like talking to people, then it’s always rewarding. And face-to-face has proven time and again to be the most effective form of fundraising around. A study by Pareto Fundraising found a pretty definitive 87-percent of money raised comes through face-to-face fundraising!

For others, fundraising can be a perfect second career for people wanting to make the move to the NFP sector.

Fundraising can involve anything from planning and organising events, digital or mail-based marketing to members, managing long-term large-donor relationships, attracting sponsorship, creating and selling merchandise, managing media and of course long-term strategy and planning.

As a result, many private-sector skills can transfer well to a job in fundraising, from the ability to write winning grant applications or convincing membership communications to marketing, event management, customer service and sales.

It sounds like an obvious choice right? But from our surveys of not-for-profit employers, fundraising vacancies are some of the most difficult jobs to fill – harder than technology, communications, finance and human resource roles.

If you’re really not sure about where to start, consider volunteering in a fundraising campaign for a national not-for-profit organisation. They’re great opportunities to gain confidence in your fundraising abilities and also potentially to build some links with professional fundraisers in head office who could become mentors down the track.

Where are the fundraising jobs?

Here are Australia’s top fundraisers, with World Vision clearly leading the pack:

Top Aus charities chart

You can see some of the organisations who are looking for fundraisers right now at www.ethicaljobs.com.au/fundraising-jobs

But the truth is, almost every organisation is always looking for great fundraisers. If you’ve got some relevant skills or experience, and you’re passionate about making a difference, get in touch with your favourite organisations and ask about how you might be able to help!

For more More about fundraising in Australia, watch: State of the donation.