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Improve your fundraising skills with a fundraising coach

June 10, 2021
A professional fundraising coach smiles while talking on the phone with a client and writing something down,

One of the best ways to help your nonprofit organization’s fundraisers become better at their craft is through coaching. In this interview with Kimberly O’Donnell, we explore who these fundraising coaches are, the work they do with thousands of nonprofit clients, and how they bring their clients’ fundraising skills (and results) to the next level.

Q&A with Kimberly O’Donnell

Tell us about your previous experience and what led you to the fundraising coach role.

I have a blended background, which indirectly led me to this coaching role. I have experience as a former nonprofit executive director and worked in the nonprofit tech space. This proved to be a perfect fit for managing and growing a coaching program. I deeply understand the daily challenges that our nonprofit clients face.

What inspired you to make the change and return to fundraising?

After more than 13 years in the technology space, I missed the fundraising aspect and wanted to get back into it. To walk the walk again. I was a chief philanthropy officer when I was recruited by Bonterra Donor Engagement (formerly Network for Good). I have also taught nonprofit management at the undergraduate level as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and George Mason University.

What do you enjoy about your current role?

I love coming in every day and getting to add value to so many nonprofits. It’s rewarding to work with our customers. We have nearly 650 nonprofits that we are coaching at any given time. I work directly with our coaches and hear the challenges our customers face. I also strategize which tools they need to achieve their goals.

What makes you passionate about fundraising?

I like the skill set that fundraising requires. Sales, marketing, and fundraising all use similar skill sets. The unique challenge in fundraising is that you’re doing it for the greater good. Your product is the purpose, which can be an interesting challenge. I love helping advance fundraising in the nonprofit sector—it’s my passion. Some people love fundraising for the individual relationships, but I like to look at the larger picture. This allows me to create value in a bigger way and amplify our collective impact in the charitable sector.

Tell us about your team of coaches. 

Our coaches represent the best fundraisers across the country and have an average of 15 years of fundraising experience per coach. These coaches have worked with over one thousand different organizations of all shapes and sizes and bring that rich expertise to their work.

I love how we can collectively share best practices and pull from so many years of experience. This is one of the big advantages of working with our coaches. Bonterra Donor Engagement has a large base of nonprofits and the knowledge to share best practices, actionable templates, and valuable resources. The result is why our coaches and company do this. The nonprofits we work with feel more confident in their fundraising and ultimately raise more money.

What are the various options the coaching program provides?

We recently redesigned our coaching packages to make them more flexible to our base. We have an assessment that, honestly, is useful to everyone. You meet one-on-one for an hour with a coach to test drive the coaching experience and talk to an expert about any challenge with individual giving that you may have right now. 

We also have a fundraising accelerator designed specifically with new customers in mind. This is designed to complement a nonprofit’s learning of how to use its fundraising software. Our coach works with you on how to use an email template and what content to put in that email. We will also talk to you about benchmarks so you’re not shooting from the hip. It’s meant to support you in your first 90 days.

The next product is our annual coaching service where we work one-on-one with you every month and talk about your fundraising and communications strategies. We help you plan for events, appeals, prospective donor research, major gift development, and more. We work with you on interpreting and analyzing your fundraising results, which is valuable for long-term strategy and growth.

Why should a new fundraiser consider getting a personal fundraising coach (PFC)?

Coaching can be an added value for fundraisers at all levels. The qualifier is whether the individual believes that they can take their fundraising to the next level—and they are willing to do the work. If they are, we can help get them there. We can help a new fundraiser understand how to fundraise, and we can help veteran fundraisers amplify what they are doing and create a plan to make them even more successful.

How are nonprofits paired up with coaches?

Each organization can select its own coach. You can read a few coaching bios and select the coach that is the best fit for your nonprofit. We have coaches with backgrounds in every purpose area and in all types of communities—rural, urban, local, and international. We can match you with someone who truly gets you and your unique purpose.

What do nonprofits receive at the end of the program?

We always give folks suggestions and recommendations for the future. We give them a bit of a roadmap to capitalize on their progress and guide them on where to go next. At the end of their coaching program, fundraisers have a new-found confidence to achieve what they want to do. Now they are able to scale and accelerate their work.

Our goal is to teach new fundraisers how to fish, give seasoned fundraisers additional skills, and translate that expertise and strategic insight into actionable steps that will help them in the long term. We give them guidance as well as assurance that they can get where they want to go.

To reap these benefits, start earning more for your nonprofit, and reach your goals, consider investing in a fundraising coach to give you personalized tips and plans.


    Donor Engagement
  • Nonprofits
  • Fundraising ideas