Windsor recently undertook research in collaboration with Queensland University of Technology and found that there is a measurable progression to senior management. With some variations, people tend to move from Campaign Director, to Development Director, to Partnership Manager, to National Fundraising Manager, to CEO, although the pathways are not always quite so definitive.
With a fundraising role often being one step before a CEO position, fundraising skills are clearly a valuable asset for anyone looking to progress a career in the not-for-profit (NFP) sector.
There was a time when fundraisers mostly became fundraisers by default. Most either fell, or were pushed, into their roles for reasons that had little to do with ambition or direction. But expectations are growing, forcing NFP organisations to supply more products and services, and find ways to fund them. This can cause organisations to step, sometimes hesitantly, onto the competitive, complicated path of contemporary professional fundraising.
In many cases the delivery of an organisation’s services and products depends on professional fundraising. The importance of generating funds has resulted in fundraising skills becoming highly valued and respected, and highly attractive to employers in the NFP sector.
But there are also other ways to fast track to success:
1. Aim straight
Before joining an organisation make very sure that its mission and your values are a good fit. Can you truly endorse its aims and work with passion to champion its cause? Weigh up the size, resources, operational goals and challenges of the organisation to ensure it will be a win-win situation for you and the organisation.
2. Measure the fit
Review who you are and where you’re going. Will this be a productive career move for you? Does it offer opportunities to showcase your talents and shine? Will you feel fulfilled in this role?
3. Invest in study and professional development
Additional to formal study, gaining any specialised industry qualification is testament to your professional commitment.
Some examples include the Australian Centre of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies at Queensland University of Technology’s post graduate qualification in fundraising, Fundraising Institute of Australia’s diploma course, and Windsor Group’s Upskill your Fundraisers service, which provides mentoring and on-the-job training.
4. Enhance your social skills
Learning protocols and social skills can be one of the best investments you make in your career. Speech training, media management workshops and dress-for-success courses will ensure you are well-presented and poised, placing you a cut above the competition. Taking the trouble to learn all you can about protocols, manners and courtesies as they relate to VIPs can be one of the best investments you ever make in your career.
5. Build industry knowledge
Volunteering is a great way to enhance your stature and improve your chances of being noticed. Network, join associations, and put your hand up for anything and everything. It will give you new information and skills, connect you with valuable contacts, build your profile and look great on your resume.
It’s up to you to go out and find opportunities. You know the maxim: ‘If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a new door!’ Don’t limit yourself by staying within your circle of comfort. Extend your boundaries – until you do, you never know what you’ll find or who will find you.
7. Stay ahead of the pack
Read papers and magazines, and research online. Keep up-to-date with contemporary thinking and trends in your industry, and with all of the tides that are moving and shaping it. Don’t be tempted to plead the ‘too busy’ case – staying interested and informed is a major priority.
8 Get savvy about ‘the back end’
Before you can boast an impressive fundraising skillset you need to become comfortable with ‘the back end’, the bit that connects you with donors. This involves understanding databases from top to bottom, researching potential donors, and making calls and meeting with them.
9. Store everything
Most of the things you think you’ll remember you’ll forget, so keep an electronic folder to store your resume (which should be regularly updated), business contacts, praise and thank-you notes, and testimonials that you receive.
10. Open your mind
Live your job and love it. Think creatively, listen attentively, and stay fresh, enthusiastic and excited. Be bold and passionate and remember you’re in your job because you love the industry, work or service you provide.
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