New fundraising role - now what?
by Gemma Nicholson
You’ve recently started in a new fundraising role. It’s exciting, a little bit nerve-racking, and at times overwhelming. Where do you start? If you’re lucky you will have some helpful handover notes with key upcoming tasks and contacts, maybe a structured induction process with meetings and project visits arranged. Or you might arrive to a desk piled high with your predecessor’s paperwork and be expected to get on with it. Most likely somewhere in-between. Whatever the circumstances, here are my three top tips for things to focus on in the first few weeks, which should help make life a little easier in the months ahead.
Get to know the work of your charity

OK, so this is fairly obvious! Usually one of the first things you will do is read up about the organisation’s work and services provided. But the best way is to plan some project visits to experience this first-hand. Hopefully you’ll have this arranged as part of your induction, but if not then you should ask to do this as soon as possible. You can talk about your charity’s work much more persuasively to a potential supporter if you’ve seen it for yourself.

It will depend slightly on the kind of services your organisation runs, but you could arrange visits; shadow delivery staff; or talk to staff, volunteers and beneficiaries. Whatever is appropriate to get as close as you can to the services. If your organisation runs a number of different services, then try and book in visits with them all over your first few months. Even if you’re not new in a job, I recommend all fundraisers go on project visits at least every year, but it feels so much easier to do when you’ve just started a role and you haven’t got a big ‘to-do’ list yet.

Talk to your donors

Fundraising of any kind is about building relationships, and being new in a role gives you a great chance to get in touch with the donors, supporters and volunteers you will be working with.

Hopefully you’ll be given a list of key donors or can check your database. If your organisation doesn’t have a database, do a thorough check of any electronic or hard copy files. It’s even worth checking your charity’s website and accounts to see if any donors are listed (I once found a significant donor listed in the accounts that there was no record of on the database, so worth turning every stone!).

List the donors in order of priority and set aside some time each day, in your first few weeks, to make some introductory phone calls. If you don’t have numbers then send an email, but I think with warm supporters it is best to try and pick up the phone first. Introduce yourself as the new contact, thank them for their support and let them talk a little bit. It’s a great way to find out a bit more about them – why they support your organisation; what kinds of things they are interested in; how you can support them; how and when they like to be contacted – and keep a record of it all. It will help get the relationships with your supporters off to a great start and help you to plan your workload over the coming months.

Make friends with your colleagues

Of course, you will want to do this, but as well as the people you sit next to and work with day to day you should reach out and get to know people across the organisation. Just as important as building relationships with your donors, is building internal relationships. Work out who you will need to work with on a regular basis – this could be service delivery staff; programme managers; finance; communications staff; or perhaps the CEO or Trustees. For example, in a Trust and Grants role, I would often need detailed information from project managers and finance staff for bids and report writing.

Arrange meetings with key staff and try and get as much useful information as you can. Take some time to understand their role, and how they prefer to work. Find out how you can work together and help each other. If you are likely to need information in the future then find out what the easiest way to get this is. Would they prefer to sit and chat about it – so you can book in meetings to gather the information – or to get a list of questions they can work through in their own time? How much notice do they need? Put it in terms of wanting to lessen the burden on them and helping them in their job. Then keep in touch with these colleagues and not just when you need something.

Focussing your attention on these things should make your job easier in the months ahead. Best of luck with your new role. If you would like any support or advice then check out our insights page, or contact me at gemma.nicholson@kedaconsulting.co.uk.