Back to posts

February 16, 2017

Preparing to step up

If you’re thinking of stepping up to lead a fundraising team you’re probably wondering how you prepare yourself to get the job. Here are some simple steps to get you ready…

Leading Successful Fundraising Teams

Carla Miller

Preparing to step up

If you're thinking of stepping up to lead a fundraising team you're probably wondering how you prepare yourself to get the job. Here are some simple steps to get you ready.

Understand the role

To secure any role you need to truly understand it. Whether it's a Director of Fundraising role or heading up an income stream, each role will have its own nuances. When you've decided what role you are aiming for, get hold of as many adverts, job descriptions and person specifications are you can for that role in the size charity you're focusing on. I mention size because a head of income stream at CRUK will need some different skills than a head of the same income stream at a small charity.

Start to build your network amongst people who already have that role. Invite people for a quick coffee and ask their advice on how to prepare for the role and also what makes candidates stand out for that sort of role. Make a good impression and they will also keep their ear to the ground for potential jobs for you.

Recruitment consultants can also be a great source of information. They can review your CV and tell you how you compare to your peers for that sort of role and make recommendations. So book in a call to a recruitment consultant that you trust and that recruits at this level.

You can also use Linked In to look at the career paths of people who have your dream role and see what sort of experience they had and how they present themselves.

Map your skills, knowledge and experience

Now you know what expertise charities and recruiters are looking for in your dream role it is time to be honest with yourself. Go through all the documents, and your notes from your meetings and calls and map out the skills/experience/examples/personal attributes that your dream role calls for. Highlight the areas that you feel you need to develop skills, gain experience, evidence or attain knowledge and create a list. If you're not sure then ask your manager to help you identify how you could develop.

Acquire new skills & knowledge

It's time to create an action plan. For each of the areas you need to develop, identify what you're going to do and when you are going to do it. Here are some suggestions.

. Shadowing someone in the role so you can see the reality of the role and learn what it looks like to do the role really well

. Reading as much as you can around the subject - whether that's about an income stream that is new to you or about management and strategy

. Get up to speed on legislation by reading articles, referring to the Institute of Fundraising or going on a training course

. Ask your employer to send you on a training course e.g. "Finance for Non-Finance Managers" or to invest in a qualification

. Get exposure to other functions within your organisation and build relationships outside your team

. Develop yourself personally by public speaking, project management, committee chairing or media training

. Become a Trustee and gain an organisation-wide understanding and learn about governance

Be proactive

This is the thing that makes strong applicants really stand out. They've spotted problems or opportunities in their organisations and have stepped up to offer a solution. They are always thinking about how they can make things better rather than complaining about how tough their role is. They take opportunities offered to them and create opportunities themselves as well. Proactive people are offered promotions because they have demonstrated the value they bring and have done so by collaborating with colleagues rather than stepping on others to get to the top. I firmly believe you can be ambitious and be a good team player at the same time.


Think about what kind of leader you are going to be and how you can start demonstrating that in your current role. Leadership goes beyond managing a team and focusing on performance. It is about creating a shared vision, taking people with you on the journey to realising that vision, managing upwards, influencing colleagues across the organisation and thinking with an organisational perspective rather than a purely fundraising perspective.

About the author

Carla Miller is a coach, consultant and facilitator, who works with charities and companies to create growth and develop happy, high-performing teams.


Tips, advice, news and more straight to your inbox

Sign up to our newsletter