The accidental fundraiser - born or made?

Sheridan Bruce, FINZ

"Fundraising is the gentle art of teaching the joy of giving." - Hank Rosso

Who said they were going to be a fundraiser when they grew up? A nurse, teacher, doctor or even an astronaut, but a fundraiser? And who knew that fundraising was a profession? Raising money by selling chocolate bars to the neighbours or not eating for 40 hours for money was honourable and considered good experience for children but it wasn’t considered a vocation by the school careers adviser!

For many of us, we fell into fundraising through our volunteer work and a need to support our community. And on a broader scale, the needs in the community have driven many to act philanthropically for the betterment of humankind.

When Errol Pike (FINZ Fellow) was interviewed for the FINZ Membership video a few years ago he said fundraisers “are great people and they’re great to be around”. He’d be right. Despite the challenges of the role there’s a general optimism and sense of well being among people who work for others. Aldrich (2011) discusses the issues of fundraising as an emerging profession and suggests that “the fundraiser’s love of humankind and ethic of service to the community transforms the work of fundraising from a set of techniques into a powerful calling”.

A growing technical competence learnt primarily on the job and through the education and training programmes established by FINZ and international fundraising institutions, is helping raise the standards and awareness of fundraising as a serious and credible profession. With growth in competence comes confidence and this is attracting interest from people and businesses outside the sector wanting to work for good causes and make a positive contribution.

While our sector has an active professional association and a code of ethics which commits members to a code of conduct, the academics among us suggest that to legitimise fundraising as a profession, the establishment of theoretically based education programmes (at university level) are required.

Tertiary Courses

New Zealand currently lags the rest of the western world in this regard. Louise Parkin, (FINZ Fellow) knows what opportunities exist at tertiary level because she’s currently working towards her Masters in Philanthropy through Queensland University of Technology’s (QUT) Business School. It delivers a Post-Graduate Certificate in Business (Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies) which has been described as an MBA for those working in the Community and Voluntary Sector. Offered by the prestigious Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Non-Profit Studies (ACPNS), highly regarded academics including Professor Myles McGregor-Lowndes, Dr Wendy Scaife and Dr Craig Furneaux are key drivers in the success of the programme.

Dr Scaife says the course is aimed at generating leaders for the charity sector and for those who want to develop their careers whilst combining it with their individual passions. Units can be completed on a full-time or part-time basis and the subjects covered include Governance, Accounting & Finance, Ethics, Legal Issues, Management, Social Enterprise and Fundraising.

The course work is stimulating and students can go on to Masters and PhD. Dr Scaife believes that one of the biggest benefits is the wide range of students in the group bringing various perspectives to the learnings. The networking opportunities are invaluable.

In New Zealand Unitec Institute of Technology conducts a Graduate Diploma in Not for Profit Management. A part time leadership course, students learn to identify organisational challenges, mobilise resources, develop strategies for fundraising, manage staff and volunteers and understand the importance of effective governance in the context of the community and charity sector. Students need to be working in or have worked in this sector either on staff or as a volunteer in a managerial role.

New Zealand Certificate in Fundraising

Conducted by FINZ, this course is the only comprehensive fundraising qualification currently in New Zealand and has produced over 60 graduates in its three year life.

The qualification is a key indicator of a fundraiser's skill level and understanding of fundraising practices.

The programme includes how to set up a charity, human resourcing, fundraising ethics, principles and practices, strategies, execution, management and measurement of campaigns. A combination of classroom and independent study over a 6 month period provides intensive learning and students can bring their own case studies to share. Fundraisers from all over New Zealand have met, in either Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch and have been guided and mentored by CFRE accredited tutors.


Like NZCiF, CFRE, or the credential of Certified Fund Raising Executive is not a requirement to practice fundraising but helps to strengthen the profession. It is an acknowledgment of the fundraiser’s understanding and skill level and provides confidence to employers and donors of professional and ethical conduct. American in origin, the certification has global recognition and identifies fundraising professionals who aspire to the highest standards of ethics, competence and service to the philanthropic sector.

Execucare/FINZ Fundraising Internship Programme

The sector is chronically under resourced which FINZ and Execucare are working collaboratively to address. While Execucare’s focus is on recruitment of professional fundraisers and development officers for schools and universities, they are proactive in stewarding young people into the profession through an internship programme and providing annual scholarships to attend the FINZ conference, another important channel of learning for fundraisers.

Since 2014 the internship programme has placed 14 young people new to the sector, into fixed term fundraising and associated roles with charities and as a result, three interns now have permanent paid positions in the sector. Our thanks go to the Malaghan Institute, Forest and Bird, Scouts NZ, Generosity NZ, Child Cancer (Akld), Mary Potter Hospice, Arthritis New Zealand, Duke of Edinburgh, Plunket and Save the Children for supporting the programme and advancing young people into a charity sector career. FINZ has also been walking the talk, recently taking on intern Minnie Finlayson as a permanent employee.

Other avenues in addressing the fundraising skills shortage include FINZ applying to have fundraising / major gifts fundraising listed on the Skills Shortage list with Immigration New Zealand which will identify fundraising as a highly skilled occupation which is in short supply.

Career development and pathways within charities is also a priority if we wish to see more fundraisers becoming charity leaders. The majority of charity sector CEOs have not risen through the fundraising ranks but have entered via MBAs and secondments from commercial organisations. There are opportunities for all charity leaders to play their part in professionalising the sector. Managers must understanding the importance of the fundraiser role, help establish career pathways and managerial roles for fundraisers to progress and look to the Fundraising Institute of New Zealand (FINZ) and other providers for professional development and staff support.

FINZ thanks the following people for their contribution to this article. Louise Parkin, FFINZ, Tilda Bostwick, Execucare, MFINZ, Errol Pike, FFINZ, Ryan O’Connell, Kaibosh and Elizabeth Isaacs, NZ School of Dance.

Follow Louise Parkin’s journey on her course on Twitter at @mlouiseparkin. To contact Tilda Bostwick, visit or email 

Visit for information about CFRE and FINZ professional development programmes.

Tempel, E R., Seiler, T L. And Aldrich, E E. (2011). Achieving Excellence in Fundraising. Jossey-Bass, USA.

- Sheridan Bruce, FINZ Newz Viewz: September 2015

The accidental fundraiser - born or made?



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