I am a Fundraiser

In the past, when people asked if I was a fundraiser I had a tough time answering that question. I would often say something along the lines of, ‘well, I have supported and helped build fundraising processes as the project manager’.

However, after having attended Fundraising Day 2015 it became clear to me that project management and fundraising have many things in common.

I was so happy to see Lindsay McLeod’s workshop Project Management for Fundraisers this past may. ‘Finally!’ I thought, ‘something to help me bridge my two worlds’.

I’ll never forget her opener; she had a great way of describing project management methodology – it was a recipe for cookies. You always have your basic ingredients (flour, sugar, milk, eggs, baking soda), but sometimes you need raisins, sometimes you need chocolate. Each batch is different, depending on its requirements. Just like a project.

In a project you always manage risk, human resources, quality, communications, budget, time, procurement, the project scope and the integration of all of these processes into a unified system. And yet, in each project these look different. So like a recipe, project management is an approach – one used in many industries and applicable to all. And the more I learn about fundraising, the more I see it very much in the same way.

Fundraising too has its basic elements without which it could not function to meet its end: storytelling, solicitation (whether it be personal, direct mail, events or other), accounts management (including all types of donors and all stages from prospecting to recognition, including financial management), and the integration of all processes inherent within these.

At the end of the day both fundraising and project management are charged with the same responsibility: to support organizational strategies. Consequently, they are both integrative processes relying on communications, marketing and operational supports; they also both use many of the same methods, such as research, negotiation, prioritization and strategic planning.

My experience as a project manager has taught me that effective project managers have a strong set of skills that include: the ability to communicate well, write effectively, and manage a myriad of details, along with a familiarity with database and IT, superb organizational skills, an ability to budget wisely, build relationships, foster management enthusiasm and commitment, and present dynamically. And a project manager must be an opportunist – with an ability to spot potential and act upon it and be able to adapt and change strategies. And what I’m beginning to learn is that a fundraiser must have these same skills too.

Two months into this fellowship and I am beginning to see fundraising – and my role in it – with a bit more clarity. I’m not going to pretend I know exactly what my role looks like, and for all I know my next blog post may contradict the very points I made here today, but I embrace the journey with interest and passion. But now, when asked if I am a fundraiser, I am more comfortable answering, ‘Yes, I am’.

Now off to make ‘cookies’.