How to Become a Fundraising Consultant: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Jan 21, 2022

Explore the requirements to become a fundraising consultant. Learn about the job description, and review the step-by-step process that can help you start a career in fundraising consulting.

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Fundraising Consultants

Fundraising consultants develop and coordinate activities to secure funds for charitable or nonprofit organizations, political candidates, or projects. They might work as independent contractors or on staff in consulting or public relations firms. Fundraising can involve long work hours, depending on the consultant's client load. Some fundraising goals and situations may lead to stress.

Career Skills & Info

Fundraising consultants must be people-oriented professionals with the ability to develop relationships with donors. They should also have excellent listening, verbal, and writing skills, and be familiar with Microsoft Office Suite and database software. Between 2020 and 2030, public relations and fundraising managers can look forward to a 13%, or faster than average, increase in jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). As of May 2020, public relations and fundraising managers earned an average annual salary of $118,430.

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Fields Communications, marketing, nonprofit management, public relations, or English
Experience Several years of experience in fundraising and development
Key Skills Excellent written and oral communication and listening skills, outgoing, people-oriented personality, and the ability to develop relationships with donors; familiarity with Microsoft Office Suite and database software
Job Outlook (2020-2030) 13% growth (for public relations and fundraising managers)*
Median Salary (2020) $118,430 (for public relations and fundraising managers)*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Bachelor's Degree

Aspiring fundraising consultants typically have a bachelor's degree in communications, marketing, nonprofit management, or public relations. Other future fundraisers major in English. Many schools also offer fundraising courses, which cover regulations and laws for soliciting funds, strategies for running successful fundraising efforts, and effective ways to research and apply for foundation and government grants. Fundraisers who plan to work with large donations, may earn an advanced degree in law or finance to help donors receive the greatest tax benefits from their donations.

Success Tip:

  • Consider an internship. Students can learn more about the position through fundraising internships. Duties may include researching possible donors, drafting proposals and thank you letters, developing special programs, and assisting with fundraising events. Other options include volunteering for donor drives at nonprofit organizations or conducting fundraising for campus groups.

Step 2: Experience

Establishing a track record of success is important for fundraisers. Prospective fundraising consultants often start out in the development department of nonprofit organizations. Here they may maintain donor databases, write grant proposals, and organize fundraising activities. In these lower-level positions, future professionals can learn to communicate with individuals of different economic statuses and interests by helping to plan and lead fundraising initiatives that reach a variety of donor types.

Success Tip:

  • Join a professional organization. Professional organizations like the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Council for Advancement of Support and Education offer continuing education, fundraising resources, and networking opportunities for members. Organizations such as CFRE International also provide professional certification, which requires fundraisers to pass a written exam and participate in educational programs.

Step 3: Diversify

Fundraising consultants need experience in a variety of settings in order to build credit with future employers. For example, if someone only has experience fundraising for local non-profits, he or she may not be as employable as someone who has experience at the national level, working on multiple platforms, and coordinating with various government and non-governmental entities. And remember, even an internship at the national level is important! Moreover, anything that can show your level of comfort and experience in multiple settings can be beneficial towards landing your dream job.

Let's review. In May 2020, public relations and fundraising managers earned a median annual salary of $118,430 in a field that's expected to grow at a faster than average rate through 2030. Most fundraising consultants need at least a four-year degree in communications, marketing, nonprofit management, or public relations.

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