What are the strengths and weaknesses of high-performing fundraisers? Dr Daniel McDiarmid draws on the findings of a new study to explain.

Professional fundraisers who achieve great results do not all have the same temperament. However, a Global Philanthropic study of the personal attributes of more than 100 high-performing fundraisers in Australia and New Zealand shows that they are typically a competitive, independent, sociable, and restless bunch. The study shows that high-performing fundraisers have personal characteristics which help them perform well, but can also make them a challenge in the workplace.

More competitive than accommodating

High-performing fundraisers are goal-oriented and competitive people who take charge and want authority and responsibility for others. They look for challenges or tough problems to solve and take risks, but also hold themselves accountable for results.

More sociable than analytical

Friendly and sociable are perhaps unsurprising traits of the high-performing fundraiser. They are empathetic and develop rapport easily, and prefer to take the people factor into account when making decisions.

More restless than patient

A strong sense of urgency works well with the fact that high-performing fundraisers are change-orientated individuals who take on new projects readily. They are energetic, quick to take action and set tight deadlines as they work well under pressure.

More independent than structured

The self-directed nature of high-performing fundraisers means they value freedom of action and appreciate having room to manoeuvre. These individuals persevere against obstacles, are resourceful in developing solutions and work well in unstructured environments.

Strengths and weaknesses of high-performers

The personal profile of a typical high-performing fundraiser has many strengths which contribute to effective fundraising. Those attributes include:

  • Being self-confident and results-oriented
  • Assertive with a strong desire to succeed
  • Enjoy winning and the success that comes with it
  • Expect recognition
  • Believe their solutions and ideas are the best
  • Express their opinions without hesitation
  • Stand up for what they believe in
  • Seek out solutions and require little direction
  • Enjoy working with others
  • Are concerned for others and work to get them onside
  • Enjoy change and are not wedded to the status quo
  • Look for ways to change and improve things

On the other hand, there are some personal attributes which might prove unhelpful. The high-performing fundraiser may:

  • Want to be in control of most situations
  • Come across as overwhelming and too focused on their own agenda, discouraging input from others
  • Desire to win rather than find the best solution
  • Create long-term adversaries and discourage future collaboration
  • Not always listen as well as they should
  • Start formulating responses before colleagues have finished talking
  • Not always feel the need to check policy before starting a new project
  • Repeat mistakes because they have not reviewed past experiences
  • Place too much emphasis on end result and not enough on the processes to get there
  • Become impatient with analyses or methodologies
  • Have difficulty providing negative feedback and address people problems head-on
  • Jump in without taking the time to plan first
  • Go off in many directions at once
  • Get distracted from a project when something more interesting comes along
  • Have a tendency to leave things to the last minute, which can cause stress for others

Become an even higher-performing fundraiser

Awareness of a preferred natural pattern of behaviour enables one to make the best use of natural strengths and create an awareness of other traits. Knowing your weaknesses can allow you to avoid pitfalls which may have a negative effect on your results and career prospects.

If you are a typical high-performing fundraiser, you can perform even better by adopting the following:

  • Be reserved: don’t take responsibility for the next project to come along. Encourage others to take control and get the credit
  • Be the last to speak: filter your comments with the thought, ‘does this need to be said or do I just want to say it?’
  • Ask ‘what’s in it for us?’ rather than ‘what’s in it for me?’
  • Do something nice for a colleague with whom you don’t always get along
  • Listen actively: start your response by summarising what others have said
  • Ask for feedback on your ideas before taking them forward
  • Next time you design a project, see if you can adapt an existing solution rather than start from the beginning
  • Review your mistakes to see if you can improve procedures to prevent it happening again
  • Make an effort to know and follow the procedures in your workplace
  • Don’t surprise people – they might need more time than you to think through new ideas
  • Get on top of the key numbers in your work: know percentages, figures and bottom line financial details
  • Find a mentor – a person who does a good job of influencing others while achieving consensus
  • Stand up for a team member – use your assertiveness to help a colleague who might be struggling in a difficult situation

With these few tips, you can be even more effective in your fundraising, and your work colleagues will enjoy having you as part of the team.

About the high-performing fundraisers project

This study of over 100 fundraisers in Australia and New Zealand was conducted by The Rogers Group using the McQuaig Word Survey and McQuaig Occupational Test. High-performing fundraisers were nominated by other fundraisers as performing in the top 20% of professionals in the sector. To participate in the research project, e-mail: admin@globalphilanthropic.com

Dr Daniel McDiarmid
Dr Daniel McDiarmid CFRE is principal consultant at Global Philanthropic.

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