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Working as a Professional Fundraiser

What Does a Professional Fundraiser Do

Fundraisers organize events and campaigns to raise money and other donations for an organization. They may design promotional materials and increase awareness of an organization’s work, goals, and financial needs.

Duties

Fundraisers typically do the following:

  • Research prospective donors
  • Create a strong fundraising message that appeals to potential donors
  • Identify and contact potential donors
  • Use online platforms, such as crowdsourcing, to raise donations
  • Organize a campaign or event to solicit donations
  • Maintain records of donor information
  • Evaluate the success of previous fundraising events
  • Train volunteers in fundraising procedures and practices
  • Ensure that all legal reporting requirements are satisfied

Fundraisers plan and oversee campaigns and events to raise money and other kinds of donations for an organization. They ensure that campaigns are effective by researching potential donors ahead of time and examining records of those who have given in the past. Many of the organizations that employ fundraisers rely heavily on donations to run their operations.

Many states require “charitable soliciting organizations” to register with a state agency. The National Association of State Charity Officials provides advice to charities, as well as links to each state’s charity office. Professional fundraisers who work as private consultants need to register with the state in which they do business. Fundraisers who work for an organization that engages in fundraising activity will not have to register individually as long as their organization is already registered.

Fundraisers who work for political campaigns must be knowledgeable about campaign finance laws, such as the contribution limits of an individual giving to a specific candidate. More information on federal campaign finance laws can be found at the Federal Election Commission. State laws can be found at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The following are examples of types of fundraisers:

Major-gifts fundraisers specialize in face-to-face interaction with donors who can give large amounts.

Planned-giving fundraisers solicit donations from those who are looking to pledge money at a future date or in installments over time. These fundraisers must have specialized training in taxes regarding gifts of stocks, bonds, charitable annuities, and real estate bequests in a will.

Direct-mailing fundraisers send out requests for donations to large numbers of people through the mail, over the phone, and online.

Events fundraisers obtain donations through charity events, including dinners, auctions, galas, and charity races such as 10Ks.

Annual campaign fundraisers solicit donations once a year for their organization. Many nonprofit organizations have annual giving campaigns.

Capital campaign fundraisers raise money for a specific project, such as the construction of a new building at a university. Capital campaigns also raise money for renovations and the creation or expansion of an endowment.

How To Become a Professional Fundraiser

Fundraisers typically need a bachelor’s degree and strong communication and organizational skills. Employers generally prefer candidates who have studied public relations, journalism, communications, English, or business.

Education

Fundraisers have a variety of academic backgrounds. However, some employers prefer candidates with bachelor’s degrees in public relations, journalism, communications, English, or business, but degrees in other subjects also may be acceptable.

Several schools offer master’s degree programs in philanthropic studies or fundraising. Requirements for entering these programs generally are based on work or volunteer experience at a nonprofit or grantmaking foundation. Students may take courses in annual campaigns, planned giving, major gifts, grant proposals, and marketing.

In addition to taking relevant coursework, students can gain experience by volunteering at local charities or participating in student-led organizations.

Other Experience

Internships and previous work experience are important in obtaining a paid position as a fundraiser. Many fundraising campaigns rely on volunteers having face-to-face or over-the-phone interaction with potential donors. It is important that the fundraiser who organizes the campaign have experience with this type of work.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Certification is voluntary, but fundraisers may obtain it to demonstrate a level of professional competency. CFRE International offers the Certified Fund Raising Executive designation for fundraisers. Candidates are required to have 5 years of work experience in fundraising, as well as 80 hours of continuing education through attendance at conferences and classroom instruction. To keep their certification valid, fundraisers must apply for renewal every 3 years.

Advancement

Fundraisers can advance to fundraising manager positions. However, some manager positions may require a master’s degree, in addition to years of work experience as a fundraiser.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Fundraisers need strong communication skills to clearly explain the message and goals of their organization so that people will make donations.

Detail oriented. Fundraisers must be detail oriented because they deal with large volumes of data, including lists of people’s names and phone numbers, and must comply with state and federal regulations. Failing to do so may result in penalties.

Leadership. Many fundraisers manage large teams of volunteers and must be able to lead them without having the usual incentive of pay at their disposal.

Organizational skills. Fundraisers manage large campaigns and events. They must have strong planning and organizational skills in order to succeed.

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Average Salary$36,869
Job Growth Rate9%

Professional Fundraiser Career Paths

Top Careers Before Professional Fundraiser

Cashier
16.4 %

Top Careers After Professional Fundraiser

Cashier
9.8 %

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Professional Fundraiser Demographics

Gender

female

53.5 %

male

43.5 %

unknown

3.1 %

Ethnicity

White

79.2 %

Hispanic or Latino

8.1 %

Black or African American

6.8 %

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

66.7 %

French

8.9 %

Hindi

6.7 %
See More Demographics

Professional Fundraiser Education

Majors

Business
25.9 %

Degrees

Bachelors

48.1 %

High School Diploma

24.6 %

Associate

13.2 %

Top Colleges for Professional Fundraisers

1. Northwestern University

Evanston, IL • Private

In-State Tuition
$54,568
Enrollment
8,451

2. Stanford University

Stanford, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$51,354
Enrollment
7,083

3. Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA • Public

In-State Tuition
$18,454
Enrollment
40,108

4. University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,584
Enrollment
10,764

5. University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$56,225
Enrollment
19,548

6. Howard University

Washington, DC • Private

In-State Tuition
$26,756
Enrollment
6,166

7. Villanova University

Villanova, PA • Private

In-State Tuition
$53,308
Enrollment
6,819

8. San Diego State University

San Diego, CA • Public

In-State Tuition
$7,488
Enrollment
30,018

9. Columbia University in the City of New York

New York, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
$59,430
Enrollment
8,216

10. SUNY College at Oswego

Oswego, NY • Public

In-State Tuition
$8,440
Enrollment
7,039
See More Education Info
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Top Skills For a Professional Fundraiser

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 17.0% of professional fundraisers listed alumni on their resume, but soft skills such as detail oriented and organizational skills are important as well.

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Top Professional Fundraiser Employers

1. Ruffalocody
4.1
Avg. Salary: 
$33,680
Professional Fundraisers Hired: 
140+
2. Xentel
3.7
Avg. Salary: 
$51,294
Professional Fundraisers Hired: 
22+
3. Heritage
3.9
Avg. Salary: 
$31,336
Professional Fundraisers Hired: 
13+
4. Share
3.9
Avg. Salary: 
$34,498
Professional Fundraisers Hired: 
11+
5. DialAmerica
4.4
Avg. Salary: 
$45,567
Professional Fundraisers Hired: 
7+
6. Safety Service Systems
3.7
Avg. Salary: 
$31,957
Professional Fundraisers Hired: 
6+
Updated October 2, 2020