The Fundraiser - Practical advice and insight for the charity sector

Posted in Ask the Experts Training & Development

What makes a good fundraiser great?

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What extra ingredients are needed to turn a good fundraiser into a great one? Our experts share their advice.


Lucy Caldicott, fundraising director, CLIC Sargent

Fundraisers love people, and they love communicating with them. If you walk into a fundraising office, it will very rarely be quiet. We’re naturally sociable people so we’ll generally be chatting to each other or, more usually, laughing and joking.

What makes the difference between a good fundraiser and a great fundraiser is that a great fundraiser is as good at listening as they are at talking. They are genuinely interested in other people. You could even say that some of us are pretty nosy!

Listening is a vital skill for creating great fundraising. By honing our inquisitiveness and taking the time to listen to our donors, by trying to understand what makes them tick, we will learn the best language to use and the best stories to tell to engage them and excite them in our charity’s work.


Lowri Haf Turner, fundraising manager at Kidscan

Being a great fundraiser is all about balance. A great fundraiser will have the right balance of passion and determination to reach the charity’s goals, but won’t become so engrossed in the cause that they burn out.

For me, passion is the big difference between a good fundraiser and a great fundraiser. If you really believe in what you’re doing, and it affects you on a personal level (be that through a personal experience or just a field of interest to you), you’ll be braver when asking for support, and your sincerity will be clear to those you’re asking.

Having said that, we can all succumb to burnout when we’re putting our heart and soul into our job. This can affect your ability to do your job at all, let alone be great at it. It’s important to take holidays, to have hobbies and interest outside work and to remember that saving the world is not a solo mission.


Disha Sughand, head of fundraising and marketing, Womankind

A great fundraiser will excel at building relationships. Whether it’s talking to a major donor face to face or writing a letter for 20,000 individual donors, a great fundraiser makes it feel personal and relevant.

Ascertaining donor’s motivations and matching them up with the right people and projects to achieve their goals is also important. A great fundraiser enjoys getting to know donors and knows the details and stories that will engage and inspire them.

They will also demonstrate resilience when they lose a pitch or when an idea fails, and will evaluate, learn, improve and try again.

Being passionate about the cause is also key. A great fundraiser conveys their passion for the cause in everything they write and say – it’s contagious, and hard to fake.


Adrian Sargeant, professor of fundraising and director, Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy, Plymouth University

The work that we did on the outstanding fundraising project taught us that fundraising leaders who have doubled or trebled their voluntary income are so called Level 5 leaders – that is, they exhibit a high degree of professional will to get things done, but they also score highly on the characteristic of humility. They push for meaningful change, but are likely to pass the credit for any achievements on to their team.

These great fundraising leaders also focused on creating great teams, great structures to support these teams and the development of an organisational learning culture that promotes and encourages risk taking and innovation.

Most substantively, however, what distinguished our great fundraising leaders was the quality of their thinking. While they obviously had great fundraising skill and knowledge, they were also able to think systematically about solving fundraising problems. In short they knew not only ‘what’ to think about fundraising, but ‘how’ to think about fundraising.

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