Why Be A Fundraiser?


The goal of fundraising is to build relationships and work with donors to create real change.

Guest Post by Michael Nilsen, Association of Fundraising Professionals

Philanthropy in Canada

Canada has an incredible tradition of philanthropy – giving, volunteering and other activities that support charitable causes.  According to the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) bi-annual What Canadian Donors Want Survey, over two-thirds of Canadians typically gives an average of $924 to charitable causes.

But all that giving and volunteering doesn’t happen automatically.  Canadians are a very generous people.  We want to help one another.  But most of us don’t wake up and just decide to give.  We may not always know the best way to give or which organization to support.

That’s where a professional fundraiser comes in – the individual responsible for generating funds and support for a charity.  But if you think a fundraiser is someone who just makes phone calls all day, think again.  The goal of a fundraiser is not really about raising money, but creating relationships.

Creating Connections

“Fundraising is about creating connections between people and the cause they want to support,” says Vivian Smith, executive director of the Langley Memorial Hospital Foundation in Langley, BC.  “It’s not about what my organization needs necessarily, or how great my cause is, but rather listening, seeing how the donor’s interests match up with my organization’s programs and needs, and working together to create maximum impact.”

The personal nature of fundraising, and the idea that you’re helping to make a difference, is one of the things that appeals to many fundraisers about their jobs.  “I truly believe in my organization’s mission, and I love hearing about how we’ve touched patients’ lives,” says Roger Ali, president and CEO of the OneFoundation for Niagara Health System in St. Catharines, Ontario.  “I want to help build a healthier and stronger community, and fundraising is a great way to do that.”

Fundraisers agree that it’s an exciting time to be a fundraiser.  “The charitable sector is becoming an integral part of the country, and there’s a high demand for our services as government continues to cut back on budgets and spending and baby boomers leave the workforce,” says Scott Decksheimer, chair of AFP Canada.  “Fundraisers are in high demand, and a good professional will have many opportunities to move up and face new challenges.”

Fundraising As a Career

The latest AFP Compensation and Benefits Study shows that the average salary for a fundraiser in Canada in 2016 was $73,529.  Six in 10 fundraisers saw their overall salaries rise from 2015 to 2016.

But before one jumps in, Dana Ades-Landy, CEO of the Heart & Stroke Foundation in Quebec, cautions individuals to consider some of the challenges.  “Fundraising is competitive right now with so many organizations needing to raise money.  You have to be creative and be able to differentiate yourself and your organization.  But success doesn’t happen overnight – it’s a series of steps in building relationships.  So it’s critical that you have a passion for your cause.  If you don’t believe in what you’re raising funds for, you’ll find your job very challenging.”

Interested in Fundraising?

Mr. Ali suggests individuals interested in fundraising should:

  • Talk to professional fundraisers to learn how they became involved and why they enjoy their job;
  • Attend an AFP event to connect with fundraisers and learn from them;
  • Take time to figure out and articulate their values and strengths;
  • Give 100 per cent.  Fundraising is a very personal career.  Fundraisers take it home with them, so they need to be connected to and inspired by the cause.

There’s a lot to learn about fundraising, but there are a lot of opportunities as well, and many colleagues who can help you along your journey.  But in the end, for most fundraisers, the best part is the impact you have on your community and your country.

“What makes fundraising so great is that we’re always focused on the future: how we can work with donors to create real change,” says Ms. Ades-Landy.  “I love that about our profession.  It’s always so inspiring to bring people together to see how we can make things better.”

This article first appeared in AFP’s “Philanthropy in Canada” supplement in The Globe and Mail on June 7, 2017.

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About the author: Michael Nilsen is the Vice President of Communications and Public Policy at the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

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