Many great fundraisers rise through the ranks to become great leaders of the entire fundraising team of a nonprofit organization, and sometimes the entire organization itself. What sets them apart is often based upon seven traits or attributes identified in an outstanding research study by Dr. Adrian Sargeant and Jen Shang.

1) Commitment to the Cause

Quite simply, great fundraisers are deeply passionate about the cause they are involved with. This reaches the form of absolute and undying love for that cause.

This involves their professional being and includes strong financial support. Everyone inside and outside the organization can tell the difference in the spirit and enthusiasm from this person.

It is not hard to see that such passion is needed as the foundation for the other attributes to be layered upon.

trophy2) Thinks Long-Term

Obviously, being above average thinkers is needed to rise in any career. The ability to absorb and utilize all inputs ranging from human communications to vast amount of data requires a high level of brainpower.

This must be coupled with the ability to think long-term and the capability to form and present long range plans. Those plans should work together to formulate a cohesive vision for the future.

3) Sets an Outstanding Culture of Learning

It is one thing to personally have a strong desire to learn, however it is quite another to have the knack to inspire such a desire to learn in others!

Such a learning culture impacts so many other areas of the organizational culture and day-to-day work. This allows cutting edge techniques and innovation to be part of inspirational conversations. Boredom or complacency never has a chance to creep into the picture.

4) Makes Their People and Teams Awesome

This is the essence of leadership based upon passion and purpose. People flock to be part of their team. Everyone knows they can be a success on such a team and great strides can be made on a regular basis.

By the way, everyone also knows they will be working harder than ever on such a team while having a large amount of fun!

5) Inculcates System Thinking

Some might be surprised by how important this aspect is in the overall fundraising success.

A systems-based approach is the only way an organization can scale and meet the demands of rapid success and growth. This is not only computer related systems, but also systems in all the other areas, so humans can interact in a much wider manner. This can and should lead to a higher level of overall team synergy because of the continuous refection with each other as part of these systems.

Keep in mind performance appraisal systems should be geared to grow future leaders as well as prepare everyone on the team for achieving all objectives.

6) Manages Upwards

Every nonprofit leader understands that there is always a board of directors or a CEO, if they are not the CEO, to build a close relationship with. Many refer to that as managing expectations, but the top leaders are generating excitement, freeing up resources and setting the stage for top results to happen.

This management upwards is also a key step in creating the best possible culture for the entire team. If resources are made available then continuous learning becomes a vital aspect of that culture.

7) Develops PRIDE on the Part of the Organization in its Fundraising and Fundraisers

It is so easy to tell when everyone from the board to the volunteers radiates a sense of pride in the fundraising skills and results for any particular organization. Not only do they openly show the pride, they are willing to help in any fundraising related task.

The effect this pride has on the overall culture of the organization is staggeringly positive. As one might guess, confidence and success in one area, such as fundraising, influences nearly every other area of the organization.    Excitement and energy become bedrocks of the ongoing culture.

How many nonprofit leaders do you know that possess all seven traits? Are they considered to be a great fundraiser? What did we miss? Let us know in the comments below!


Jay Love

Jay Love

Co-Founder & Chief Relationship Officer at Bloomerang
A 30+ veteran of the nonprofit software industry, Jay Love co-founded Bloomerang in 2012. Prior to Bloomerang, he was the CEO and Co-Founder of eTapestry for 11 years, which at the time was the leading SaaS technology company serving the charity sector. Jay and his team grew the company to more than 10,000 nonprofit clients, charting a decade of record growth. Prior to starting eTapestry, Jay served 14 years as President and CEO of Master Software Corporation. MSC provided a widely used family of database products for the non-profit sector called Fund-Master. He currently serves on the board of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and is the past AFP Ethics Committee Chairman. Jay is also the author of Stay Together: How to Encourage a Lifetime of Donor Loyalty.