These days, fundraising has become an integral part of the way that humanitarian-minded nonprofit organizations make enough money to thrive. For many groups, fundraising is a strategy that lies at the very core of their operation, a fact that is becoming all the more common. Groups like Omaze were created solely to facilitate fundraisers, and countless organizations and individuals such as Bruce Springsteen, the New York Historical Society, and Charity Water continue to better the lives of others with the help of vital fundraising.
If you work for a nonprofit that relies on fundraising, you know how important it is, but you’re also likely the first person to admit how difficult it can be. Sarah Beaulieu, Senior Advisor to the Opportunity Nation campaign and Founder of The Enliven Project recently shared some fundraising tips in her article “Secrets to a Happy Fundraising Career (and a Sane One Too).” Here is what she has to say:
“Find the kernel of truth.” Beaulieu explains that she cannot honestly look someone in the eye and ask for money if her vision does not align with that of the organization she works for. To find happiness in a fundraising career, you must authentically connect to the mission of the organization you work for, and believe in the people who work towards achieving that mission.
“Build a kitchen cabinet.” “If you are doing it right, fundraising is a lonely job,” says Beaulieu. By building a “kitchen cabinet,” Beaulieu is referring to a core group of peers that provide her with fresh perspectives, friendship, and positive energy. It is critical to form a circle of allies in your life – be a breakfast club, networking group, or a few friends on speed dial – to successfully immerse yourself in your fundraising work.
“Teach the program staff how to fish.” Beaulieu explains, “At the end of the day, donors belong to the institution, not to an individual development officer, and organizations are better when these relationships are nurtured together.” She suggests training your staff how to fundraise effectively, as well as to form strong relationships with donors, as it will help the organization in the long run.
“Acknowledge the pressure and be realistic about expectations.” There is a huge amount of pressure that comes with fundraising; after all, the funds you raise have the power to change lives. This means that your job is one with a ton of pressure attached. While it is important to acknowledge this fact, it is also good to consider that there is always room for growth and improvement, and that it is just as important to be realistic about your goals.
“Listen to what your development director has to say.” Beaulieu points out that ignoring the feedback, insights, and skillsets of other development directors is a huge missed opportunity. Don’t ever get so comfortable that you forget that any job involves continual growth and learning, and if you do fundraise for a living, recognize that you are a smart, strategic individual who brings a lot to the table.
“Build appreciation for philanthropy.” Explains Beaulieu, “Wealth, in and of itself, is not evil. It’s a tool for change.” She says that it is critical to find a way to work with those who have access to major funds, as those funds can become the tool that only you know how to implement to create change or support humanitarian efforts. Donors are your partners in this line of work, not your enemies, and in some ways, you’re both in the business of changing the world.
Make sure to read Beaulieu’s full article for more helpful tips on how to thrive in and enjoy a career in fundraising.