In the summer, many of us are approached by a face to face fundraiser, but few of us realize what a challenging job it is. “The fundraiser is selling an image in order to get the customer to commit to donate monthly to the NGO,” says Susanna McGlynn, CEO of Fundraising Aid FRA.
Susanna McGlynn and Heidi Melin-Gandhari
McGlynn worked in fundraising for Unicef for several years before starting her own business. The company, which has operated for three years now, counts NGOs such as World Wide Fund for Nature WWF, Save the Children Finland, and the Finnish Red Cross as its clients.
In the busy summer season, FRA employs almost two hundred face to face fundraisers across Finland. Most of them are young, and do not have much previous work experience. Most of them are students or young people in the last year of high school, but there are also people who have made a long career in a different field.
McGlynn and FRA’s project manager and training coordinator Heidi Melin-Gandhari have valuable advice for young job seekers.
Dare to make contact
“Face to face fundraising is raw sales work, where you have to tolerate a lot of negative feedback,” Melin says. “The work requires a degree of boldness and a will to succeed,” she adds.
McGlynn emphasizes the need to be daring. “It is important to have the courage to go and make contact with strangers.”
Different types of people are drawn to face to face fundraising work. For some, the work comes naturally; some undertake it in order to improve their social skills. The majority of fundraisers working in the summer are aged 17-22.
When applying for a job requiring you to actively contact people, it pays to exhibit the ability to do so. “Calling the employer is a good idea. It shows that you are interested in the job. Of course, you should think about what you are going to say and ask beforehand,” McGlynn says.
You should also think about your attitude. “Sometimes an applicant will call and say that they can start work next week, but they are going travelling the week after that,” McGlynn says, and laughs. “You should also remember that it is not a good idea to call at odd hours. If you are applying for an evening job, it is ok to call in the evening, but not on Sunday afternoon!”
These days, the vast majority of applicants send an electronic application or contact the employer via email, so calling the employer directly helps one stand out. McGlynn says that ten years ago ninety per cent of applicants rang up the employer.
Even if you do not call, you should remember that the employer might ring you. “If you have applied for a job, remember to expect a phone call, and answer the phone!”
Small details - big difference
A successful job search can hinge on small details. Clear communication is important. Drawing up an application that shows personality is another opportunity for standing out.
“You notice if the same application has been sent to ten places,” Melin says. “We do receive very well-thought out applications, where you notice that the applicant has carefully considered why he or she wants to work for us. That makes a positive impression.”
If you apply for a job as a face to face fundraiser, it pays to demonstrate the qualities that are needed in the job. “A fundraiser should have good verbal skills. Having good energy and focus are important,” McGlynn explains.
FRA’s fundraisers mostly do door to door work. Encountering new people and selling monthly-donation memberships is challenging. Having the will to succeed and being present in the moment is important.
“The fundraiser should be able to make the potential new member feel like he or she has their full attention. The fundraiser should approach every new situation like the first one,” Melin says.
Melin started working as a fundraiser herself in 2005, and enjoyed the work for two and a half years, when she moved into management.
The fundraiser should help the customer think through why they should support a particular NGO. “The best fundraisers have a lot of warm, unhurried conversations with customers,” McGlynn says.
What motivates you?
The motivations for applying to work as a face-to-face fundraiser are varied. An interest in the NGO world is common to all FRA employees. Perhaps the most important thing in looking for a job is to consider why you want the particular job you are applying for.
“If you have given even a little thought to what job your are seeking and why, it shows. If you really want the job, you have a better chance of getting it,” stresses McGlynn.
Many fundraisers work for a summer or two, but some enjoy the work for several years. Such a challenging job requiring social skills enables one to learn skills that can be valuable later on in one’s career.
As McGlynn and Melin note, you can learn a lot about yourself by doing face-to-face work. Most of the people approached by a fundraiser immediately say no. There is a lot of negative feedback.
“You learn a lot about your reactions to different situations. You can not be startled in a challenging situation,” Melin says.
Text: Juha Rudanko