In the development office, Major Gifts, Nonprofit Careers

The 3 skills of an effective fundraiser

I was recently asked what three skills were needed to be an effective fundraising professional. I thought about the fundraisers I admire and often try to emulate. These were the fundraisers who have effectively built incredible relationships with wealthy philanthropists and knew when and how to call on them when the organization needed their support. These were the fundraisers who have great passion for their cause and believed that the nonprofit was making the biggest and best difference in the local community, state, nation or world. After some thought and scribbling down ideas, I came up with the following three abilities.


The 3 skills of an effective fundraiser are:

  • the ability to build relationships;
  • the ability to develop strategies to cultivate an individual donor;
  • the ability to effectively work with a Board of Directors to engage them in the fundraising process.

At the core of fundraising, is the relationship between the donor and the organization. A fundraising professional must first know how to effectively build relationships with donors on the behalf of the organization because people give to people. This is both a simple and challenging task.

In building relationships with donors, a fundraising professional must be able to develop strategies to cultivate a donor. The key to strategic cultivation lies in effectively matching the donor’s passion with a specific need within the organization resulting in funding for a program.

One of the responsibilities of a Board member is to fundraise on behalf of the organization, which is often a challenge. An effective fundraising professional knows how to engage each Board member at their comfort level to help fundraise for the organization whether it is simply inviting their friends to the organization’s fundraising event or developing a relationship a with major donor that culminates in a significant donation.


What are additional skills that a fundraiser must have to be successful?

3 thoughts on “The 3 skills of an effective fundraiser”

  1. I completely agree with the outline of these three important skills. In response to the question you pose, I believe that an additional skill needed to be an effective fundraiser would be active listening. It may seem pretty obvious as part of the “building relationships” skill set, but many people have the tendency to dominate the conversation (ie, facts of their organization, recent awards, etc.) and loose out on a potentially major conversation. What my mentors have really focused on, is the need for a fundraiser to really listen to the prospect/donor. By doing this, you are able to learn what really excites the person about your organization, what their true passions are, and how engaged they may be.

  2. I think you nailed this concisely.
    “Effectively matching the donor’s passion with a specific need within the organization” takes great communication and listening skills.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge. I feel like when I read your articles I actual learn something new and it’s not a regurgitation of what we (fundraisers) already know.

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