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5 secrets to success in your new fundraising job

Posted January 23, 2018 by Virginia Davidson

tips for new fundraisers

Whenever you start a new fundraising job, the first several months can be overwhelming. We believe these five tips will help set you up for success, especially if you’re in a small shop.


Tip #1: Get to know your board members.

Review the board roster and learn how they are identified in your database. Kick things up a notch by scheduling a brief conversation with each board member, either in person or over the phone. Find out how they got involved with the organization and what draws them to the mission. Your board members ought to be some of your most ardent fundraising allies, and these initial conversations will serve you well as you begin to work together.

Tip #2:  Make an online test donation to your organization.

Get a feel for what donors experience as they make a donation through your website. Is the donation form easy to fill out, or do you feel it asks too many unnecessary questions? What kind of email confirmation do you receive? Understanding this process in your early days will give you a leg up when it comes to making improvements. If the organization is not yet collecting donations online, consider a solution like LGL Forms.

Tip #3: Find out what reports you’re responsible for, when those reports are due, and to whom.

If you need to provide a report to the development committee on the first Thursday of each month, spend time in advance learning what the report entails and practice running it. Have a colleague review it to make sure it’s what they’re used to. This way, you’ll already be familiar with the process when it’s time to generate the report for real. (Hint: If you want to make improvements to the report, consider presenting the “standard” report alongside a “new” version. Then point out what you changed and why.)

Tip#4: Review the development plan.

You’re likely inheriting an existing plan from your predecessor. Spend some time reviewing it and going over it with a colleague. Ask what times in the year tend to be the busiest. If it’s not clear from the plan, make sure you know what amount each event or appeal is expected to raise. You might get a sense of elements you’d like to change or add for next year’s plan (such as launching a planned giving program). Keep note of those ideas so you can bring them up with the team when it’s time to plan for the new year. If your organization isn’t following a development plan, here’s guidance on how to put one together.

Tip #5: Learn how data is managed.

Having access to good data, and knowing how to maintain it, is one of the most important assets in a fundraiser’s toolbox. Where does your organization store data about its donors? When gifts are received, how are they recorded? If your organization uses a donor management system like Little Green Light to track this critical information, it’s essential that you dedicate time to familiarizing yourself with the system. Your organization may rely on Excel spreadsheets to store its data, and if so, this is a good time to ask Is now the right time to invest in a donor management system?” 


Incorporate these five suggestions into your work during your first months on the job, and you’ll be well on your way to achieving fundraising success!

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