Advice for the New Fundraiser

Ann Fitzgerald President AC Fitzgerald author

Ann C. Fitzgerald, President

Fundraisers of a certain age (ahem) have a lot to learn from millennials. This younger generation is confident, innovative, and technologically adept.

But millennials can also learn a great deal from seasoned fundraisers. Here are some tips to accelerate the professional development of a new fundraiser:

  • Read and write. Fundraising is about communication. The better you are able to share your organization’s mission through multiple vehicles, the faster you will progress in fundraising. And bone up on grammar while you’re at it. Nothing grates on the ears of older donors more than “him and I” and other cringe-worthy mistakes.
  • Learn what your bosses know. Don’t be that person who offers lots of advice without having any knowledge or experience to back it up. Determine what your boss brings to the job and learn from him or her.
  • Yoga pants never work. Pay attention to what your board members or major donors wear and emulate them—not your friends. Don’t let your clothes convey the wrong message.
  • Get comfortable with the phone. And I don’t mean texting or Instagram. Many donors still prefer to talk on the phone, and it may be the only way you will secure meetings.
  • Speak slowly and clearly. Women do well when speaking at a lower octave on the phone. Men often need to enunciate more. If donors often say, “Excuse me?” when speaking with you, this may be a hint that you are not communicating clearly. These tips are particularly useful when leaving voice messages.
  • Remember that you are always “on.” From the moment a donor event starts until the last donor leaves, you are representing your nonprofit. Arrive early to everything, dress well, and interact with donors and not just your colleagues.
  • Etiquette never goes out of style. As a fundraiser, you will meet donors at many locations from fancy restaurants to private clubs to backyard barbeques. Watch a video on etiquette tips so that you are comfortable and respectful.
  • Find a great mentor. Be on the lookout for a fundraising mentor who can offer advice and help you navigate your career.

Finally, find ways to share your insights and observations about fundraising with senior management in a productive way. You have a lot to offer nonprofit organizations, but you need to communicate ideas in a way that demonstrates your willingness to learn and collaborate.

Ann C. Fitzgerald is Founder and President of AC Fitzgerald, using her decades of experience in fundraising, management, leadership, and sales to help nonprofits build their capacity and achieve success. She is a sought-after speaker, writer, and advisor.

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