7 Characteristics of a Successful Fundraiser

 
 
What makes a great fundraiser? There are several critical characteristics of a successful fundraiser that you should have when considering a job in development. It may seem that these fundraising skills are innate, but you can learn them through persistent practicing. 

So if you're looking to brush up on your skills or want to know if a career in fundraising is right for you, this is a great place to start!

1. You're a Great Listener

An active listener will pay attention to what their donors say, which can lead to more frequent and more substantial gifts. Making mental notes of your donor interests (and then recording them in your donor database) will help you connect to your donor's values and persuasively explain why they should give to your cause. 

Practicing your "ask" based on their values and interests is a great place to start. There are also a ton of free webinars and courses you can take to brush up on your communication skills, including how to talk to your donors

2. You’re Motivational 

A good listener and motivator go hand in hand. Motivating doesn't mean persuading, it's all about listening to your donors, volunteers and supporters than connecting to their interests.  If your donor believes in the mission, motivating them to give should also align with their wishes.

The best way to become a better motivator is to understand the psychology of philanthropy. Many different motivating factors will encourage people to give, each, of course, is unique to them. The same goes to your volunteers, approaching them with a positive attitude and enthusiasm is a great way to encourage volunteerism. 

3. Be Resilient and Persevere 

Perseverance is a quality needed for almost any job. Especially when you're building relationships with donors for major gifts. It helps to be patient and persistent because you’re working with people. Devin Strigsell joined us on the Fundraising Superheroes podcast a few weeks ago and shared that perseverance has been so important in her career as a director of development. 

After being rejected by a donor for a big gift, she doesn't give up. Instead, she reevaluates her to ask to see how she could have done better. After thinking it through, Devin realized she made a large ask far too quickly and waited some time before going to the donor with a different approach, and it worked! 

Part of the secret to perseverance is setting goals and realistic benchmarks to measure your success. Times will get tough, and when it does, you have to work through the issues. Strategic planning can come in handy here. There is often a lot of pressure to quickly raise a ton of money, which can get overwhelming. Learning how to build and execute long-term plans is a skill you'll need to get the job done and avoid burnout. 

4. Curiosity and Creativity

Curiosity is the driving force for a lot of successful fundraisers. Natural curiosity will lead you to find innovative ways to fundraise, meet new people, and engage with the world around you. 

When it comes to fundraising, creativity is the ability to recognize or bring about an opportunity. Great fundraisers can see connections, possibilities and bring together ideas to help fulfill your mission.

5. Empathy and Concern for Others

Finding an organization you're passionate about is the first step. Empathy may appear to be an innate trait, but there are steps you can take to help yourself become more empathetic. Be a part of your organization's day to day, get to know the staff and, more importantly, the people your organization helps serve. Ask them about their hopes and aspirations for the future of the organization.

6. Always Aiming High

It's always beneficial to have high expectations for yourself and your organizations, including finding great donors and working with your board and staff to do better. However, this does not mean setting unrealistic goals or overly demanding expectations. Think realistically, but don't be afraid to aim high and work towards a goal. 

7. Love Your Work

You not only should love your nonprofit but the act of fundraising!  If you are thinking about entering the profession, try volunteering first. Find nonprofits you're interested in, and don't be afraid to ask a few questions!

Try to learn as much as you can before starting the job. If you find a particular aspect of fundraising that is interesting to you, like planned giving, major gifts, or grant writing, you should pursue it. 

Conclusion

Becoming a great fundraiser is something that requires hard work, experience and a ton of heart. Donor Engine works with fundraisers to help them reach their full potential by building stronger donor relationships. Fundraising is all about building relationships and igniting the passion others have to give. 

Keeping track of your donors and volunteers can become overwhelming, so use a donor management system to help you shine. Reach out to our staff here at Door Engine to find ways to connect with donors while saving hours of time finding, soliciting and contacting donors. 

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