The Authentic Fundraiser

black-and-white-1278713_1920I’ve had the pleasure of working with fantastic donors, volunteers, and fundraisers in my career, and one question I often pose is “what makes a good fundraiser?”. For development leaders and fundraisers, the answer usually circles around drive, work ethic, and charisma. I hear things like:

“I look for fundraisers with fire in their bellies.”
“The best fundraisers take huge risks and aren’t afraid of hearing no.”
“A good fundraiser hates to be in the office for long.”

When I talk to donors and board members, however, the description of a good fundraiser changes. Instead of talking about drive or risk-taking, donors I meet with say things such as:

” I’ve never met a successful fundraiser who was not a donor to the organization themselves “
“I was pleasantly surprised by how genuine her passion was for this project.”
“A lot of fundraisers erroneously feel like they have to have all the answers and fill the gap of any conversation, but the best I have worked with are okay with letting the donor have time to think and acknowledging what they don’t know.”

Our industry (and this blog) has spent a lot of time discussing what types of activities, qualities, and strategy distinguish top fundraisers. We circulate data about turnover and the talent shortage and the struggles of recruiting qualified candidates. In the midst of all of this we can lose sight of a key element underlying all other success: the authenticity of the individuals we hire. In fundraising we must look to build staffs that are as skilled for the work that they do as they are inspired by the organizations for which they work. Elements like skill sets, competencies, management styles, etc. can be developed, coached, trained, and molded. What we cannot easily influence is the reason why fundraisers chose their profession and their ability to come off as genuine* to donors.


*I use the term genuine here to emphasize that there isn’t one “type” of personality that makes fundraisers successful. For an example of this in action – check out the Introvert-Extrovert Fundraiser Infographic


One thought on “The Authentic Fundraiser

  1. Pingback: Salary History – Does it matter in development? | Targeting Fundraising Talent

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