Fundraising jobs require a certain kind of person: someone who is resilient, energetic, and, above all, enthusiastic. Jobs in the fundraising sector are not for shy people, or people who take rejection personally, as most of your day's work involves talking to people and being turned down again and again. However, if you can take rejection in your stride, the fundraising industry offers excellent career prospects.
Paradoxically, the further you progress in the fundraising industry, the more chance you have of avoiding fundraising from people directly. The higher up you go, the less time you spend in cold-calling and other fundraising activities. Positions such as Fundraising Director usually require you to allocate fundraising resources and plan campaigns rather than speaking to potential donors yourself.
Beginning a fundraising career
However, almost everybody starts at the bottom, and fundraising jobs at the beginning of your career are likely to put you in the front line. This often means cold-calling lists of potential donors - that is, calling people out of the blue and asking them to pledge money to your organization. Fundraising organizations use cold-calling because it is a profitable tactic, but that doesn't mean that the people you call will be glad to hear from you. The discouragingly low success rates and occasional verbal abuse involved in cold-calling mean that the cold-calling industry has a high turnover of staff. Professional "tele fundraisers" deal with rejection by remembering that, in the words of Martin Yate , author of Great Answers to Tough Interview Questions , "Every 'no' brings you closer to the big 'yes'." Remember too that the organization you work for is not expecting the majority of the people you call to commit to a regular donation. They may be counting on a success rate as low as one percent or less, so don't beat yourself up over everyone who hangs up on you.
Warm-calling is another fundraising job for people beginning their career. This involves calling people who have already had some contact with your organization, whether they have already donated money or have simply requested information.
If you've found that you thrive in fundraising jobs such as cold-calling, you may want to consider continuing your career in the fundraising industry. The next step is to apply for higher-level jobs. There are many jobs in the fundraising industry, so you need to choose which kind of job best suits your skills. Most higher-level jobs in the fundraising industry require organizational skills. For example, you may choose to become an event organizer, a co-ordinator for a political fundraising campaign or a research co-ordinator.
As a rule, the more non-fundraising skills a job requires, the easier it will be to enter the post without first going through the bottom rungs of a fundraising career. For example, if you are a skilled computer programmer, you may be able to find work building a fundraising database without ever having been a fundraiser yourself. However, people with direct fundraising experience are usually preferred for jobs which involve managing a team of fundraisers or organizing fundraising events.
Future trends in fundraising jobs
In Relationship Fundraising , Ken Burnett says, "Donors' dislike of our modern marketing methods might lead to increasing attempts to find ways of screening fundraisers out of donors' lives entirely. Now, more and more, people have answering devices that they often use to screen out telemarketers." He goes on to suggest ways in which answering machines can be used to encourage potential donors, but points out that such "message campaigns" have already been abused in America . Unless nonprofit organizations work out a way of getting around people's screening devices without being seen as intrusive, it may be that technologies such as answering machines and caller ID lead some nonprofit organizations to abandon telephone fundraising.
It is uncertain what would replace telephone fundraising. It may be an increase in door-to-door fundraising, or an overhaul of the way nonprofits target their mailings. A well-known technique in Europe is for fundraisers to approach people in the street or shopping mall and ask for them to pledge money by direct debit. However, this may never happen in the US , because of fears over security. In the United Kingdom , it is beginning to lose popularity after several years of great success.