Alan Gosschalk: How to get ahead in fundraising, part II

In the second of two articles, the fundraising director at Scope discusses the best ways for fundraisers to get promoted

Alan Gosschalk
Alan Gosschalk

If you want to get promoted, you need to become lucky. Gary Player, one of the greatest golfers of all time, said: "The more I practise, the luckier I get." You can get luckier by practising fundraising – get out there as much as you possibly can, talk to donors and ask them for money. Make sure that you’re networking with your peers so you know what’s working and what’s not, and what the trends are. There’s also a mindset thing going on here. If you are positive and feel lucky, you are more likely to get positive results. An American study has shown that if you can ask only one interview question, then "Are you a lucky person?" is the best differentiator, because people who think they are lucky tend to perform much better than people who don’t. 

Great fundraising requires excellent communication skills. I’ve already said in my previous article that you need to understand what turns your donors on and off; but you also need to get your message across well. Many fundraisers focus on facts, but did you know that we are 22 times more likely to remember a story than a set of facts. You really need to start collecting and telling stories. Here’s a great site if you need guidance.

I think it’s really important to broaden your outlook. Don’t focus only on your area of fundraising but learn about all of them. Try to work on projects with other fundraisers so you become more of an all-rounder. Then think beyond that and get involved in work that spans the organisation. After all, to get promoted you’re going to have to prove that you can get on with all sorts of people and demonstrate an interest in and understanding of all areas of the business.

Income and expenditure are critical aspects of fundraising, so you really need to know your budgets and how you’re performing against them. And if you are not good at sums and spreadsheets, then practise. Finance is a crucial area and becomes more important the higher you go.

How you spend your time is vital and I’m convinced that we don’t spend enough time thinking about this. It’s so easy nowadays to have your life driven by email and respond to everything that comes your way so that you forget to focus on the big things. I think there are five high-leverage tasks: planning, developing relationships, organising, learning, delegating and coaching. Make sure these aren’t getting lost in the rush to do the urgent. Even if you are not a manager, you can do the first four.

And while we’re on the subject of learning, do take control of your own development because it’s never going to be your boss’s priority. There are so many ways to learn beyond training courses. Do get in touch if you’d like more information.

Finally, a really important way to get promoted is to stick around. I’m appalled that the average length of time that fundraisers stay at charities in London is about two years, but this is not inevitable. Many senior staff are rightly loath to employ someone who moves charities every two years, so stick around and you might move up faster in the long run.

I hope this recipe for success helps you to get promoted. More importantly, I hope it helps you to become a better fundraiser - the world really needs great fundraisers.

Alan Gosschalk is the fundraising director at Scope.

Read his first Online Good Practice article on how fundraisers should be learning from the past to improve their performance

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