How to train NGO staff in Fundraising

Fundraising is the lifeline activity for any NGO, yet it is the most challenging task for us all. This is because there are so few resources available and too many seekers reaching them out. In such cases, only organizations that are competitive, responsive and creative succeed. But to be competitive, responsive and creative, it is important to become professional enough. Professionalism is about applying high business tactics to survive the growing competition in the world. In fundraising, professionalism is necessary.

But practically speaking, there are problems:

Technology has blessed us with tremendous opportunities and we only need to learn and manage them. With so much free knowledge available over the internet, it is possible for anyone with curiosity and interest to undertake research and development activities. Fundraising can be part of our local staff work if they are slightly trained in seeking and managing information. At least they will be able to cover many of the menial tasks that you are unable to do as the head of the organization.


Prepare the staff in fundraising work


We often think that fundraising is a serious job and only someone with a high level of education and experience can undertake it. But this cannot be true always.

We believe that a person, mostly young and enthusiastic, with basic writing and speaking skills and some level of proficiency in computers and the internet can be suitable for this job. All we need to do is render the power of technology to this person in the best interests of the organization.

Look around your staff and find out who is good in communication and managing computer work. It could be your office assistant or a project officer or a field staff. The person may be currently busy with his or her own project work, but it is your responsibility to ensure that this person spares at least 25% of the time for the sake of the organization. After all, it is the organization that will remain through all the time, not the project.

We select this person and assign him or her with the additional task of raising funds for the organization.

To begin with it, it is important to make this person responsible! To make him or her feel that bringing revenues for the organization is one of the crucial tasks and he or she is now involved with it.

It is also important to ensure that the person has enough time to do it. In many organizations, the office assistant may already have too much work at hand and may not be able to devote time for fundraising. Make it a rule that the office assistant spends at least 1-2 hours every day only on covering fundraising work for your organization.

One of the ways to make someone responsible is to hand him or her a list of activities that need to be done. Develop a job description for the person so that he or she can have targets to be achieved.


Sample Job Description for NGO Fundraising Staff

Below is a sample job description that can be used as terms of reference for an NGO staff assigned with the responsibility of raising funds for the organization.

Position: Fundraising Assistant

Reporting to: Director

Objective: To provide assistance to the head or the board of the organization in identifying donor resources, raising funds and writing proposals for long-term organizational sustainability.

Roles & Responsibilities:

  • Compile and maintain a database of international and local donor organizations (international foundations, bilateral and multilateral agencies and private corporations offering donations)
  • Regularly monitor donor websites and identify and inform donor opportunities matching the work of the organization
  • Maintain a website and regularly update it with information about organization’s work
  • Assist the Director in writing concept notes, project ideas and project proposals and ensure their timely submission
  • Undertake independent research in finding alternative resources for long-term sustainability of the organization
  • Assist the Director in developing business plans to generate income from various sources.
  • Undertake online research and build contacts with potential individual donors and raise funds for the activities of the organization.
  • Maintain relationships with existing donors and respond to their requests regularly and keep updating them about the work of the organization
  • Improve and develop communications material for the organization such as brochure, website, annual report, DVD, poster etc.
  • Organize or provide assistance in organizing any fundraising events for the organization
  • Suggest other innovative ideas for effective resource mobilization.

—End of Job Description—

Remember that the list of tasks given above is in addition to any other work you have assigned for the person. Since the organization will be expecting more out of the person, it is natural that his or her salary should be fixed accordingly. This can be a small investment compared to hefty amounts of money paid to external fundraising consultants who may still fail to bring any funding for your organization.

For more tips on writing job descriptions, visit this link.


Giving Orientation to the Fundraising Staff

Patience is a necessity in fundraising. So, it also becomes necessary to remain patient while dealing with the staff newly assigned with the job of raising funds for your organization. The person may be fluent in English and good at internet, but may have little knowledge about fundraising. In other circumstances, the person may have sound knowledge about international aid and donor orgnizations but may have no knowledge about internet search. Allow some time to facilitate this process of understanding.

Below are few tasks to be covered during the orientation session of the fundraising staff:

Let the fundraising staff revisit the objectives, mission and the present work of the organization. This facilitates a process of understanding. Then ask the staff to search donor organizations which also have similar objectives and mission – the search can be done over the internet or from your own office files.

Hand over the new job description for the staff with the intention of promoting him or her. Allow the person to read and understand it and respond back to any questions.


Training Tasks for the Fundraising Staff

Allow the fundraising staff to browse through previous proposals and concept notes. Allow him or her sometime to read and understand them.

  • Let the person understand the current work of the organization with a new perspective. Since the person is taking a new responsibility, he or she may be needing a fresh perspective to the existing situation. Let the person freely visit the running projects of the organization.
  • Share the list of any donor opportunities you have so that the person gets acquainted to it.
  • Let the staff read through guidelines and priorities of some donor agencies
  • Allow the person to spend some time over the internet and find some general and relevant information relating to fundraising for NGOs in developing countries (remember that general fundraising search on the internet can throw up results which are irrelevant to organizations in developing countries. This difference has to be conveyed to the staff).
  • Introduce the person to our website –, which has an excellent collection of resources of various funding opportunities for NGOs. Let the person subscribe to our online newsletter.


What the Fundraising Staff should not do…

New and enthusiastic fundraising staff in their efforts to raise funds for the organization may unintentionally end up doing things that can adversely affect the organization like bombarding emails everywhere with donation requests. This can harm the reputation of your organization.

Below are some things that should never be done in a good fundraising job:

  • DO NOT post random one or two-line messages on websites and online forums, requesting donations or funds. This is a bad practice and gives a negative impression about your organization.
  • DO NOT send or forward tonnes of emails to donor agencies asking for funds pointlessly.
  • DO NOT respond to scam emails that promise money or lottery funds – these are dangerous traps laid online to cheat users. Just ignore such messages and NEVER respond to them. Remember, no donor will offer money to your organization without seeing your work.
  • DO NOT copy proposals from other organizations and sending them. Although you can use proposals made by others as references, do not copy them. It will spoil the reputation of your organization tremendously especially when
  • DO NOT send unrelated funding queries or unsolicited proposals. It is not a good idea to request funds for human rights awareness from a donor that only provides grants for livestock development.
  • DO NOT keep posting your bank account details online hoping that there will be donations dropping in it. Nobody will donate your organization by seeing just your back account. In fact, displaying your bank details can expose you to scammers who can exploit this information against your organization’s interest.


Exploring donor agencies online

One of the first tasks of the fundraising staff is to develop a list of donor organizations which may be interested in supporting the programs of the organization. Some donors may be listed in your own files, some are available online. Although donor databases exist everywhere, they need to be customized to the needs of your region and the work of your organization.

Below is a list of donor agencies with complete information about their priorities and programs, which can be used to start with. You can also visit their website links given for each agency. There are also other tremendous sources of information available online.

List of international foundations providing grants to NGOs

Bilateral & Multilateral agencies

Latest funds for NGOs


Donor Database

Once the list is prepared, place it on your table or on the desktop of your computer so that it is easily accessible. You can bookmark the donor sites or subscribe to them so that you receive regular information about them.

This can be your donor database. Below is an example of what information you can keep in the database.


Building online reputation of your NGO

Like job recruiters trying to search information online about potential employees before appointing them, donors also try to find online as much details about an NGO before funding it. In fact, one of the preliminary stages of funding NGOs by some donors is to find them over the internet and then initiate contact with them to discuss possible partnerships.

So first of all, is your organization’s name available on the internet? Anywhere?

Check this out because even if you have not loaded any information about your organization over the internet, there may be someone else who may have done it. The best way to find it out is to visit, type in the name of your organization and check the results.

If the name of your organization is listed, then check out if it gives a positive impression to your work. Someone who may have volunteered with your organization or someone who researched in your project area may have may have uploaded information about your organization.

It is important to ensure that all the information available on your organization is positive and it does not give any negative impression about your work.

In this context, the Fundraising staff can be involved in:

  • Participating in web forums, social media networks like facebook twitter etc and online discussions by putting up messages such as the perspective of the organization over an issue or raising concerns for a cause. We have where organizations can register, build their profiles, make friends, organize groups and participate in forums.
  • Developing a website or a blog. In many cases, NGOs register a website and upload 5-6 pages on it and just forget it. This is not a good business practice. Websites should be made with attractive designs and should be updated regularly. Blogs can help organizations network and remain in touch with friends and partners across the globe. The fundraising staff can be involved in regularly updating the blog and also putting up multimedia like videos and images defining the work of the organization.
  • Register at donor websites. Since now submission of proposals is accepted online by several donor organizations, it may be required for applicants to register first at their website before submitting the application. European Commission which has PADOR and US Government’s international funding, which accepts proposals through, have made online registration of applicants mandatory. The fundraising staff can register the organization in these databases.


How Fundraising staff can write project proposals

Writing project proposals can be very challenging for new fundraising staff in NGOs. However, we have developed resourceful material on how to write a proposal. This material provides simple-to-use information that will aid organizations in developing countries to cover the basics of proposals writing.

The fundraising staff can refer the following links to prepare project proposals:

How to write a project proposal to apply for grants funding support

How to write a proposal for a Community Livelihoods Development Project

Sample Grant Proposal for NGOs on Sustainable Livelihood Development

How to write Proposals on Projects addressing Climate Change

A Guide to Integrate Reproductive Health into Proposals submitted to the Global Fund

Tips to Write a Funding Proposal to seek Grants for Projects on Alleviating the Poverty of Indigenous Communities

Writing a proposal to apply for DFID’s Development Innovation Fund


How to write a proposal for a Community Livelihoods Development Project

Sample Grant Proposal for NGOs on Sustainable Livelihood Development

How to write Proposals on Projects addressing Climate Change

A Guide to Integrate Reproductive Health into Proposals submitted to the Global Fund

Tips to Write a Funding Proposal to seek Grants for Projects on Alleviating the Poverty of Indigenous Communities

Writing a proposal to apply for DFID’s Development Innovation Fund