Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Common characteristics of a fantastic face to face fundraiser

I was recently asked to sit on an interview panel as an external representative.  The distance I had from the appointment afforded me the opportunity to consider what attributes make a great fundraiser.

Top of the list: TENACITY. It takes a lot of time and effort to get that meeting. Prospects and leads can be elusive but if a fundraiser keeps trying, there is every chance they will get there eventually. I’ve lost count of the number of first, or discovery, meetings that I have finally managed to secure 5 or more years after my original contact by repeatedly contacting said individual. Have they just suddenly found the time, or have they just been worn down by my perseverance? You’d have to ask them.

Fundraisers need a THICK SKIN. It is an undisputed fact that the higher the number of people that are asked for money, the more will give. My own personal motto is: ‘You don’t ask, you don’t get’. A fundraiser cannot be afraid of the word ‘no’ and cannot be someone who takes this rejection personally either. In fact, a good fundraiser, upon hearing the response to an ask, might not hear the ‘no’ at all. They might hear ‘this isn’t the right amount you are asking me for, try again’ or ‘this isn’t the right project, what else have you got’, or ‘yes’.

Next up: CONFIDENCE. I’ve heard that this can be perceived as egomania by those outside of the profession, but really it is a belief in ability. If a fundraiser has to spend all day chasing people to meet and then asking them for money, they have to believe that they are good at what they do and they will succeed eventually or they will quickly give up and never get anywhere.

A fundraiser must be LIKEABLE. Fundraisers need to be able to build relationships quickly and to maintain them. This doesn’t mean that they should be fake or be able to pretend to like people. The reality is that a fundraiser has to like people, like meeting people, like learning about people and generally enjoy socialising with people. The relationships that a fundraiser builds are very real and can continue to develop through various jobs in some cases.

It is important that a fundraiser has the ability to LISTEN. That is, really listen to what someone is telling them, analyse what the donor or prospect might mean and quickly come up with ideas/projects/solutions (delete as appropriate).

HONESTY and INTEGRITY are essential as personality traits. Though this does partly come down to being a good relationship builder, a donor has to be able to trust the person they are dealing with to ensure their donation is spent in the way they have asked and that any problems are brought to their attention and dealt with appropriately, not swept under the carpet and ignored.

There are obviously other desirable qualities, like being passionate about your work, the ability to close an ask, being able to work collaboratively with anyone, and having an armoury of small talk for events, but these can be learned and come with experience.

So, how many attributes do you have?

Hannah (@hannahbrodie)


  1. All good attributes. Also have a look at the just published report on educational fundraisers, An Emerging Profession, commissioned from More Partnership and Richmond Associates by the Higher Education Funding Council for England. The accompanying toolkit has practical guidelines on how to recruit and retain effectively and suggests key competencies and professional values for fundraisers. See:

  2. Thank you Joanna, I'll take a look!

  3. Hi Hannah - great post. And let's not forget the fundraisers who aren't face to face focused, too - direct marketers and trust fundraisers, for example. Someone said on the Spring Institute Twitter hashtag the other week, "Printed materials don't raise money, people do" but they're not quite right. A plain, unbranded, C5 envelope with a proper stamp can raise you tons of money - but only if you have a seasoned direct marketer in place who knows exactly what should go inside that envelope, and who it should go to.

    We need much more focus on nurturing effective direct marketing skills in the university fundraising sector - too many institutions' programmes are nowhere near as effective as they could be.

  4. Very true Adrian, and it is a very specific skill. Not enough good direct marketeers around.