Fundraising Manager: What They Do and How to Become One

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For a driven leader and convincing marketer who is interested in generating support for a worthy cause, the fundraising manager role can be an appealing career choice. If you’re curious about what to expect in this role, and how a background in marketing can help you thrive in the nonprofit sector, read on to learn more about what a fundraising manager does and how you can become one.

A fundraising manager speaks on the phone with a potential donor.

What Is a Fundraising Manager?

A fundraising manager is someone who holds a leadership position in the fundraising or development department at a nonprofit organization.

Fundraising and development are related but differ slightly. Fundraising is raising money, whereas development (also called fund development) is a more holistic approach that emphasizes creating and nurturing long-term relationships with donors who support the organization’s mission.

As TSNE, a management consulting firm that works with nonprofit organizations, defines it, “Fund development is the ongoing strategic positioning of an organization to sustain and grow its resources by building relationships with those who understand and care about the organization’s relevance to the community. Building these relationships requires creating a shared vision, clear articulation of mission, creative strategies, and a solid communication plan.”

TSNE adds that a solid development plan requires an investment in donor relationships as well as a sturdy internal infrastructure that allows the organization to fulfill its mission. The fundraising manager plays a central role in ensuring that both of these needs are met.

What Does a Fundraising Manager Do?

It is a fundraising manager’s job to develop and implement fundraising strategies for their organization. This strategic planning and action can involve a variety of fundraising efforts, from hosting gala events and submitting grant applications to soliciting major gifts from potential donors and supporting donor community engagement.

Planning and overseeing fundraising campaigns are also central to the work of a fundraising manager. For instance, they could use a capital campaign to raise a large amount of money — often for a specific project — in a short period of time. Or, they might oversee an annual campaign and focus on reengaging previous donors. Interacting with supporters who commit to matching other contributions is another important responsibility.

These professionals may also pursue planned giving as a fundraising strategy. In this case, a fundraising manager will need to be well-versed in the tax implications of various types of philanthropy someone could incorporate into their estate planning.

The day-to-day work of a fundraising manager can vary depending on what type of fundraising they conduct. For instance, part of identifying and engaging with potential donors includes researching the net worth, philanthropic goals, and donation history of individuals or entities. But a fundraising manager whose organization attracts new donors through social media might spend time overseeing video production and other content creation. Someone who is focused on raising awareness might write press releases, speak with journalists, or produce and distribute promotional materials.

While carrying out these duties, the fundraising manager will monitor each initiative’s progress and how far the organization is progressing toward its fundraising goals. They will also keep all fundraising activities aligned with the organization’s departmental budget and the fundraising policies and procedures they may have had a hand in developing.

Since raising money is such a big responsibility, organizations typically rely on more than just one person to support these critical efforts. Fundraising managers typically supervise other staff members and may also recruit and manage volunteers. They will also interact with organizational leaders, community partners, donors, and other stakeholders.

Where Do Fundraising Managers Work?

This role sometimes involves travel for meetings and events, but fundraising managers generally work in office settings for nonprofit organizations. The type of organization can determine what key fundraising goals and activities these managers will pursue.

Organizations that hire fundraising managers can range from universities and museums to social welfare organizations, religious organizations, and scientific institutions. While many of these are large entities, small nonprofit associations can also benefit from the skills, energy, and leadership of a capable fundraising manager.

Someone aiming to reach the fundraising manager position would do well to specialize in a particular niche. Developing professional expertise in a certain industry will give you more experience with the types of donors, fundraising efforts, and challenges that you will be exposed to in a leadership role.

How Much Do Fundraising Managers Make?

The fundraising manager role can be well-compensated. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which lists this role under the umbrella of public relations and fundraising managers, people in these professions earned a median salary of $116,180 in May 2019. While the lowest 10% of earners made less than $64,790 per year, earners in the top 10% made more than $208,000.

For reference, it’s also worth examining the median earnings for the fundraiser position, since the earning potential differs significantly between this lower-level position and its management counterpart. According to BLS data, fundraisers earned a median salary of $57,970 in May 2019. The lowest earners made less than $33,530, whereas the highest 10% of earners saw annual salaries of more than $100,410.

An entry-level fundraising professional who wants to accelerate their career and secure a high salary should look to join an organization where advancement opportunities are possible. Or, they may need to be strategic about seeking new and more advanced roles outside the organization to progressively increase their earning potential.

Keep in mind that actual compensation can vary depending on the employer, organization size, geographic location, years of experience, and other factors.

What Degree Do You Need for Fundraising Management?

Unlike some other professions, there is not one specific educational path to follow to become a fundraising manager. Many different academic disciplines can translate well to the day-to-day responsibilities of fundraising and nonprofit management.

A bachelor’s degree in a field such as marketing, communications, advertising, public relations, English, or business administration may lead to a fundraising career. For instance, UAB’s online Bachelor of Science in Marketing can prepare students for a career in the nonprofit world.

A graduate-level education is typically not required, but some employers may look for a master’s degree in nonprofit management, fundraising, or a related field.

How Do You Become a Fundraising Manager?

Since various educational backgrounds can prepare you for a career in fundraising, working toward the manager position will require you to follow a specific career path, from internships and entry-level positions to more advanced roles.

If you have your career sights set on the fundraising manager position, it’s important to start building your resume by getting development experience as part of an established fundraising team. You can volunteer or participate in an internship program with very little experience. After earning a degree, like UAB’s online Bachelor of Science in Marketing, you can start seeking entry-level employment opportunities in the field. A position like fundraiser or development assistant will be a great place to start.

Once you have gained sufficient experience in the ins and outs of fundraising and development, you can start looking for more advanced responsibilities and leadership opportunities. For instance, planning one smaller event or initiative, under the supervision of a fundraising manager, can help you gain the right type of experience needed for that role. The BLS explains that employers typically look for about five years of related work experience when assessing prospective fundraising managers.

What Skills Are Needed for Fundraising?

Persuading people to part with their money in support of a charitable organization, and helping keep that organization financially stable through regular donations, are not easy tasks. For that reason, fund development calls for a variety of skills and a high level of creativity.

Strong written and verbal communication abilities as well as great interpersonal skills are central to the work of a fundraising professional. The ability to uncover a potential donor’s personal values and convey to them the advantages of supporting a particular organization is made possible by these people skills — especially when paired with a marketer’s perspective. Strengths like persuasiveness, storytelling, and creativity give fundraising professionals the ability to turn facts and figures into compelling messages that deeply resonate with donors and motivate them to give.

Additionally, as the National Council of Nonprofits explains, fundraising is a regulated activity. Therefore, fundraising managers must comply with IRS guidelines and state legislation, as well as ethical practices. They must be highly organized and attentive to detail as well to keep the organization’s development initiatives in compliance. Budget management skills play an important role in nonprofit fundraising, since the staff cannot afford to spend more money than they are able to bring in through their development efforts. However, since certain fundraising activities like auctions and other events can be expensive to produce, professionals in this role must strike a careful and strategic balance.

Moreover, experience with donor management software programs like Raiser’s Edge is typically required of fundraising professionals. The ability to use accounting software and other financial management tools is also essential. Plus, some familiarity with graphic design, social media, and other digital platforms can also allow people in this role to produce and disseminate content for various campaigns and audiences.

What Makes a Good Fundraising Manager?

The fundraising manager requires a lot of skills and competencies that can be learned, but some inherent qualities and personal characteristics can also help people enjoy and thrive in this role.

A good fundraising manager will be a good listener — they will pay close attention to the needs of the organization and also stay attentive to what potential donors say and desire. At the same time, they will also be a positive team-builder whose motivational energy helps drive all staff, volunteers, and even donors toward a shared vision and mission. Charisma and enthusiasm can be infectious and effectively urge people to rally around the organization when it’s asking for support.

Accomplishing ambitious fundraising targets calls for perseverance and determination, as well as patience. Additionally, dealing with such targets and the sensitive nature of accepting donations and other personal data means that fundraising managers must have a high level of integrity and follow strict ethical standards.

Even after one campaign ends, a fundraising manager’s development work is never done. Someone who is relationship-oriented and who places value on cultivating innovative, fresh ideas will find the long and somewhat repetitive nature of the job more rewarding. It is also valuable when these creative and person-focused inclinations are paired with a strong interest in data analytics. At the end of the day, a fundraising manager must be results-driven to succeed in their role and add value to the organization.

Last, but certainly not least, fundraising managers often care deeply about working as a force for good and creating change in the world by helping nonprofit organizations fuel and fund their work.

What Is the Job Outlook for Fundraising Managers?

The fundraising manager role is considered a “Bright Outlook” occupation by the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), meaning that professionals can expect to see significant growth in the field over the next several years.

Indeed, as the BLS reports, the number of opportunities for public relations and fundraising managers is expected to increase by 9% between 2019 and 2029. This is a much higher growth rate than the national average of 4% growth across all occupations, and the expansion is expected to bring the total number of jobs up to 96,100 by 2029.

Even though the field is relatively small, it is an in-demand niche that can offer exciting opportunities and rewarding, challenging work for qualified professionals. For instance, there are growth opportunities beyond the fundraising manager role. With the right combination of education, experience, and expertise, it’s possible to advance along the fundraising track to roles like director of development, chief development officer, or even executive director.

Launch Your Career with an Online Degree from UAB

If you’re an aspiring fundraising manager, earning an online Bachelor of Science in Marketing from UAB’s Collat School of Business is a great place to start.

The comprehensive Marketing Core includes courses like Marketing Research, Integrated Marketing Communications, and Entrepreneurship and Marketing Planning. These and others will ultimately show you how to understand your target audience and communicate the right message to earn their trust and donations.

Moreover, rigorous Upper Level Core courses like Information Systems, Fundamentals of Financial Management, and Business Communications will provide a solid foundation to help you thrive in any fast-paced business setting.

Finally, you will have the opportunity to complete a three-credit Strategic Marketing Capstone. In this culminating experience, you can apply everything you’ve learned toward a project that relates to your own professional interests. From the planning phase to implementation, this course will see that you’re ready to tackle real-world challenges in whatever industry you choose.

To learn more, visit the program page or contact an enrollment advisor at UAB.

Recommended Readings:

Course Descriptions

Online Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing

What Is Marketing?

Becoming a Public Relations Specialist


BLS, Public Relations and Fundraising Managers

BLS, Fundraisers

O*NET, Summary Report for Fundraising Managers

National Council of Nonprofits, Fundraising

TSNE, More Than Just Fundraising: Why Fund Development is an Essential Nonprofit Planning Tool