Apprenticeship Levy, Fundraising

Fundraising – Six skills needed to thrive

14 September 2021 by Heidi Marshall

Having spent nearly a decade working in the fundraising space, Corndel’s Ali Terrington has recently been catching up with some incredible fundraising professionals to delve into the skills fundraisers need to thrive within their organisations. 

“After moving to Corndel, it was really important to me that I found a way to continue to champion and showcase the third sector, and fundraisers in particular. I decided to start a blog series, Fundraising – the unsung profession, to tell the stories of incredible fundraising professionals and help give insight to those looking at joining this incredible sector. 

Key skills and attributes of successful fundraisers 

When asking the question, ‘What do you think the key skills or attributes you need to be a successful fundraiser?’, Ali expected to receive a similar answer from each interviewee. She quickly realised it is a much bigger question than she had assumed. Here are some of the answers given by fundraisers from 10 UK charities:  

Desire to understand people and their motivation “Immediately people say you need to be outgoing and good with people, and although this is true to a degree, it isn’t be all and end all. It really depends on your role. You don’t need to be able to stand in front of a crowd, maybe you are better 1-to-1 conversations. As long as you are confident and have a desire to want to understand people, understand the cause you are working for, and understand how a charity should centre on creating a fairer world, not just getting a pity vote, then whether you are confident talking to thousands or just one person, you will be a good fundraiser.” 

Patience “When people start, sometimes they expect money to come in really quickly, and sometimes it can which is great, but a lot of the time you are sowing the seeds and building relationships before that big win. Do your research and take the time to understand what you are doing and how your work is making a difference.” 

Broad, ever-growing knowledge “Be equipped. If you are new to fundraising or not, you need to take the time to learn & develop your skills. Having foundational knowledge is vital to succeeding.” 

A ton of personal resilience “Even 10 years into my career, I still get the elation when we receive a grant or get a big donation. Being resilient and being able to manage the highs alongside inevitable setbacks is really important.” 

Active listening “You don’t have to be donor led, but take the time to listen to your donors and understand them. Don’t be afraid to take money off the table if it means you can build a strong relationship which will be more beneficial in the long run.” 

Passion “Passion is the most powerful attribute a fundraiser can have. People who are good at fundraising have a passion for creating a fairer, more just world.” 

Agile planning “During the pandemic, Events & Community fundraising was decimated. Fundraisers had to think of new ways of working and engaging supporters. Fundraising can be a constant battle between delivering strategy and reacting under pressure. A successful fundraiser needs to be someone who can think creatively and innovate, whilst following a plan and delivering targets.”  

Communication is key “This isn’t to say to have the best technical skills and perfect writing style, but the raw ability to communicate effectively to a wide range of audiences and to be able to tailor your communication, whilst still delivering the impact and inspiration supporters require.” 

It is clear to see that the skills and attributes needed to thrive in fundraising cannot just be described by a tick list on a job description. Fundraising is complex, multi-faceted, and not for the fainthearted.  

Corndel is proud to be working with charities to nurture and grow their networks of talented professionals through programmes such as our Fundraising Diploma, and helping the third sector get the recognition and investment it deserves. 

Ali Terrington is Corndel’s Partnerships Director, leading our work with the third sector. Prior to joining, Ali worked in the sector for 8 years, starting as a community fundraiser and moving on to lead income generation teams at a range of charities. Connect with Ali on LinkedIn where you can read her blog series ‘Fundraising – the Unsung Profession’, or contact her at  

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