How to become a freelance fundraiser

Do you dream about supporting positive causes and meaningful changes in the world, while also being your own boss? Find out how to become a freelance fundraiser or fundraising consultant, and it could be your new self-employed career.

Charities, non-profits and community interest companies (CICs) all need money to allow them to operate, whether it’s from donations, sponsorships or activities and events.  There are currently around 950,000 people employed in the voluntary sector in the UK, with fundraisers also employed by arts organisations, hospitals, churches or political parties. So, you should be able to find clients which you’re happy to work with, and remote working or job-sharing are often possible.

As a freelance fundraiser you will tend to focus on the practical aspects of bringing in donations, potentially specialising in the type of donors you work with. But you may also evolve into a freelance fundraising consultant, giving more strategic advice and input.


Why become a freelance fundraiser or consultant?

One of the biggest sources of happiness in any career is a sense of purpose and meaning in the work you do. It’s a major factor for many people when they consider starting any self-employed career. And it can be a big part of becoming a freelance fundraiser or consultant.

You may have experience working with a large charity organisation, or spent time in a related field, and want more control over the way you work, and the causes you support. Freelancing allows the potential to work with multiple smaller charities or groups, giving you more variety in your career.

Being self-employed also means you can take control of your work location and hours. You may want to ditch commuting and focus on working with organisations in your local area from a home office. Or take on projects around other commitments, whether it’s spending more time with your family, looking after your health, or running your own charity.

What does a freelance fundraiser or consultant do?

The role of a fundraiser can be much broader than you might imagine. You may be focused on community donors and organising volunteers, researching grants and trusts, or reaching out to large sponsors and corporations. Depending on the role and requirements, it can involve managing existing activities, developing new ideas, and carrying out analysis of what is delivering the best results.

Many fundraisers and consultants are classified by the types of donors they focus on;

  • Community fundraisers: This is the most familiar, as you’ll be working with the general public.
  • Major donor fundraisers: Focusing on those supporters who may donate high-value amounts
  • Corporate fundraisers: There are a range of ways it’s possible to work with businesses, whether it’s seeking sponsorships, or organising donations via payroll.
  • Trust and statutory fundraisers: Preparing proposals and bids to secure money from trusts and grants.
  • Legacy fundraisers: Encouraging donations via wills.

More broadly, any charity fundraiser or consultant will need to inspire new supporters and donations, whilst also developing existing relationships, to increase the funds coming into an organisation.

This can involve new or existing activities across events, marketing and communication, public relations, researching and applying for funds, maintaining databases of donors, or deciding where an organisation should focus their efforts for the best results.

What skills or qualifications do you need to become a fundraiser?

There’s no official qualification required to become a freelance fundraiser or consultant, but most people in those types of career will have been educated to degree level, often in a related subject such as marketing, media, business, law or accountancy.

Working for larger charities or in overseas roles will tend to be more competitive, so a degree or Masters in areas like international development is an advantage. But going to university isn’t essential, as experience is also important, whether it’s through volunteering, internships, or previous roles.

You can develop your skills and gain qualifications through courses offered by various organisations, including the Chartered Institute of Fundraising (CIOF), the Directory of Social Change (DSC), the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), or the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO). It’s also important that you understand the rules and regulations of the Code of Fundraising Practice set out by the Fundraising Regulator for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the equivalent laws for any other countries you might be working in.

Other freelancing skills which definitely apply to fundraising and charity consultancy include;

  • Networking to build and manage relationships from volunteers to key donors
  • Good communication skills within the organisation and externally
  • Organisational and project management skills
  • Business and financial knowledge
  • Flexibility and creativity, particularly when working with smaller organisations or developing new ideas
  • The ability to work under pressure, meet deadlines and overcome challenges

And you’ll also need to factor in the requirements of running your own business, including setting rates which will work for you and your clients, finding a steady stream of projects to maintain your income, and marketing yourself if necessary.

Most freelance fundraisers will become self-employed after gaining paid or voluntary experience to build up their knowledge and contacts in the sector. In addition to the resources previously listed, you can find volunteer opportunities via a range of sites, including Do It, looking at information for charities and causes you’re already interested in, or checking out groups in your local area.

How to become a freelance fundraiser or consultant

How much can you earn as a freelance fundraiser?

With any estimate of self-employed income, your earning potential will depend on your qualifications, skills and experience, where you’re based, and the clients you attract. So, any figures given below are broad guidelines.

Working in the charity sector, and with non-profits, typically means that money isn’t the primary incentive, but obviously it’s important that you can support yourself and any family or dependents without constantly worrying about your income.

As an employed charity fundraiser, salaries start around £15,000, and averages range between £20,536 (Totaljobs), £23,458 (Glassdoor), £24,232 (Indeed),  and £25,148 (Payscale). This increases for more senior positions, and freelance rates will typically be higher than for an employee to compensate for the lack of holiday pay and other benefits.

You may choose to bill on a daily rate, which can vary from around £150 to £200 for a less experienced freelancer, to much higher figures for experienced senior consultants. Or you may want to invoice for your services on a project basis.

If you need help in understanding how to set day rates, and what costs you need to think about, including professional insurance, make sure to check out the helpful IPSE advice section, created by the only UK not-for-profit focused on self-employment.

More support and resources to become a freelance fundraiser

Researching other freelance careers? Why not check out our other guides:

And you can get support and help if you’re starting out with self-employment, or still in the early stages of building your career, with the IPSE Incubator. The 12-month programme is currently free with IPSE membership, and includes advice, events, webinars, networking and more, tailored to anyone just beginning their freelance business.