Turn your passion into a viable income with these 15 tips to earn money as a professional fundraiser! Good fundraisers are hard to find, and hence they are the most actively recruited, and best paid, positions within nonprofit agencies.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that the top 1% of professional fundraisers are earning around $1 million annually. Salary.com publishes that the average salary range for a fundraising manager is $72,689 to $102,264. The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes that fundraisers make even more, at a mean of $57 an hour or nearly $120,000 annually. (See here, here and here.)
Whether you have volunteered in fundraising and love it, or you are looking to make more money as a professional career fundraiser, here are some of the best ways to increase and maximize your income!
1. Market yourself with the skills clients want in a professional fundraiser
The top tip to making money as a fundraiser is representing yourself as the perfect candidate to fill a needed role within organizations. Fundraisers are expensive for a reason; they have abilities that are not necessarily learned, and they need a diverse set of skills.
Highlight how you have done successful, impactful work in the following ways:
- You’ve raised money in the past. Whether it was for your son’s soccer team, for a nonprofit with which you worked for years, or from sales or retail jobs, you need to show that you have successfully raised funding.
- You know how to write. Communication in general is key to fundraising, but writing is the point that wins the client’s heart. Link to online campaigns, highlight that you write winning grants and proposals, and list your particular degrees and training for writing skills.
- You are friendly. Fundraisers have to have charisma and attract people to them, so make it personal!
- You are highly organized. Fundraisers have to be social but they also have to know how to crack down on a budget and plan to be successful.
2. Take fundraising skills courses and put certifications on your resume
A good way to boost your resume beyond the basic skills is to add fundraiser certifications on your resume. If you have a Masters in Fundraising or Nonprofit Development, great! Most of us do not however, and you do not need one. You can take online seminars to fill in the gaps in your skill base. Try Foundation Center for a grant writing course, or many university extensions offer fundraising certificates for completing short courses.
3. Join fundraiser associations
It can help to join the Association of Fundraising Professionals, or any local associations that network with other professional fundraiser and funders.
4. Build a reputation and network as a top fundraiser
One of the best ways to make money as a professional fundraiser is to network well. Since fundraising jobs are difficult for nonprofits to fill, they often ask colleagues for referrals for full time jobs and contract work alike. So providing top notch customer service to all of your clients and colleagues at all times could be helping you in less obvious ways.
5. Get a fundraising job with a funded nonprofit
Fundraisers have a lot of options and control over how they make money. The most obvious way, and probably the most lucrative, is to get a job with a well-funded and organized nonprofit organization. The ones with the best fundraising departments are always schools and hospitals. You can also learn a lot from working with the go-getter managers and leaders in these organizations.
6. Work as a fundraising subcontractor for development firms
An option is to subcontract with development firms, using your top skills. If your love is organizing events, market yourself as an event manager and get jobs doing just that for nonprofits that need it! If a development firm that already has multiple clients hires you, you won’t have to attract your own clients and can focus entirely on one fundraising skill.
7. Create profiles on online freelancer sites as a professional fundraiser
You can attract full time work and contract work alike, especially to build your resume, by using online sites like Upwork.com. Create a profile with your resume and send out as many proposals as possible until you earn a few clients. It can be worth the work to build a good reputation online and have a source for work you can do from your own home!
8. Read the Chronicle of Philanthropy and Foundation Center Digest
These two publications are musts for professional fundraiser, to stay abreast of fundraising news, trends, and employment opportunities.
9. Branch out to new fundraising fields
If all you have ever done is grant writing or event planning, branch out to new fundraising fields and learn new skills to round out your resume. Crowdfunding, for instance, has gone beyond being a trend to being a viable online platform for nonprofits and businesses alike to raise funding. Read up on it and volunteer to run a campaign for experience.
10. Be proactive – find opportunities for professional fundraiser for organizations first
Anyone who wants to make money needs to be proactive in finding opportunities. Do not sit back and wait for clients to ask you to work, but send emails, call colleagues, go to events, and talk to people and organizations about their fundraising needs to generate your own business.
11. Reach out to startup businesses
Fundraising is not just for nonprofits, but also for businesses. Hundreds of federal opportunities, for instance, are extended to businesses that will forgo profit for a grant. Businesses are also open to crowdfunding, award competitions, and other campaigns to generate initial capital. Businesses might pay you much more than a nonprofit can as well if your goal is to make a bit of money.
12. Work on commission
Many of those businesses and nonprofits alike will ask you to work on commission – as in you only accept payment if the grant is awarded. If you like risks, the payoff for you can be great. Just make sure that type of agreement is allowed by the funder from whom you are seeking a grant and that you have a good contract and controls set up in the arrangement so that the organization pays out your fee when it wins the award.
13. Focus on customer service
You are going to have many failures while fundraising, so you need to focus on your work process. Sometimes you have to ask a foundation 4 or 5 times before it grants an organization funding! Customer service and follow-up with the funder as well as with your client is key to success, and to generating repeat work.
14. Only take on good projects
That said, one way to ensure you are most successful with your fundraising efforts is to only take on good projects that will get funded in the first place. Those are projects that are well managed, well led, well organized, and have a great impact on a community problem no one else is addressing.
15. Charge what you’re worth
Finally, the 15th tip for making money as a fundraiser is to charge what you are worth. Even if you have minimal experience, nonprofit agencies have to pay that noted median $57 per hour for fundraisers that do not necessarily have fancy degrees or much more experience than you. You have a unique skill base that is necessary to advance their mission, and you should be compensated for it.