Successful Fundraisers Should Become Genuine Leaders

Job of a fundraiser often gets hard, exhausting and frustrating, yet it also remains very dynamic, exciting and if successful, ultimately very rewarding.

We as fundraisers must constantly learn and improve our performance and most importantly ourselves. But in order to be successful in the long term we must also lead. Lead others in our teams and organizations and most importantly lead ourselves. Fundraising is leadership, says Kay Sprinkel Grace – a world-renowned fundraising guru from San Francisco.

In order to best serve our mission and profession we as fundraisers must become genuine leaders. Leaders who have convincing vision and a big dream, who have our WHY (why we exist and why we do what we do). Leaders who are inspiring others, bringing everyone on the same board, showing a convincing lead into where we are heading and how we want to achieve our goals. In such a way can we motivate our fundraising team members, inspire them to be the best they could be and bring about the change we want to see in our organizations and most importantly in lives of our society, beneficiaries and donors.

Everyone in our organization is a fundraiser. Every team member contributes to how organization follows its mission, how it delivers services to beneficiaries or how it strengthens its visibility, brand and trustworthiness in eyes of potential or existing donors. It is our role as fundraisers to be leaders who motivate also other non-fundraising colleagues, inform them about our achievements and failures, and encourage them that each incoming phone call or an email could be an important relationship-building opportunity or potential fundraising win.

We must be leaders also of our donors. Not only in explaining in how we follow our mission and what impact do we bring to the society. But also in inspiring them to become our fans, advocates for our cause or even devotees of our brand. The bigger these communities around our cause and organization become the bigger financial or in-kind support we could raise. Successful fundraising is about fulfilling donors’ desires how they can become part of a better world they want to see around them. How our donors can become part of a solution. We should be leading our donors to become dreamers and change-makers.

We as fundraisers must assure our organizations are donor centric – putting donors and their needs first. After all our fundraising and communication should primarily be about societal needs and needs of our beneficiaries and supporters, not about our organizational survival.

Putting donors into centre of what an organization is doing is core to success in fundraising. This is even more true in times of hardship. Picking up a phone and talking to donors, asking how they are doing and showing genuine care and appreciation of belonging and support during difficult challenges is paying off.

In the pandemic times of uncertainty and constant change many organizations feared about decline of donations. And yet, surprisingly, many have experienced record levels of support in 2020. The winning ones were those who have not forgotten about communities around their causes and have nurtured them through frequent and personal communication.

Fundraisers who want to achieve great results need also backing from leaders in their organizations. Without understanding fundraising, without support from top leadership in organizations, without their wisdom and many times courage and willingness to riskfully invest and test, fundraisers will be facing tough challenges. There will be lacking capacity, insufficient investments or know-how issues and fundraisers not supported by their organizational leaders will fail to achieve their goals. Support to their missions will lag behind its potential.

In order to be able to lead others and to receive support from leadership in organization fundraisers must also lead perhaps most importantly themselves. Firstly, their work needs to be aligned with their life values. The right alignment is a source of determination and passion so much needed for this challenging job. But also discovering deep sense from what we are doing and receiving satisfaction from our achievements. If not aligned, this demanding job could soon become source of low engagement and performance, frustration and ultimately burnt-out.

By leading ourselves we should also be able to devote enough capacity to our private life, own family and self-development. This includes prioritization of daily routine and apart from work duties allocating enough time to hobbies, sports, study and other leisure and development activities. Fundraising is a very demanding and hard job. In order to perform well and yet remain balanced we must organize our priorities and calendars so that we do not get swallowed by all the pressing duties and deadlines. And ultimately will enjoy its beauty, rather than get engulfed by its negative side effects.