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Skills needed for a charitable profession

Published on Thursday, 05 Aug 2010

Answering donation-related inquiries, such as how a charity plans to use contributions and explaining to a caller the ways to participate in a non-profit group's events, are among the daily responsibilities of a donor services officer.  

Officers provide donors with information, education and resources, and help maintain community relations.

Donor services officers are the equivalent of customer service professionals in the private sector, says Fei Fei Barnes, director of operations at WWF Hong Kong.

"For a charity, it is absolutely essential to maintain relationships with donors," Barnes says. Donor services officers are often the first people with whom supporters come into contact.

At WWF, Barnes says donor inquiries cover a wide range of issues, from how to join the organisation's monthly donation scheme to information about the group's annual walk. Donor services officers also answer simple conservation questions, while passing on more technical and complicated ones to WWF specialists.

Donor services officers also process donations, which entails liaising with banks and handling membership and donor information, and co-ordinating with volunteers.

Barnes says it is important for donor services officers to have good communications skills, be sociable and able to motivate in order to be effective volunteer co-ordinators.

She says that it is crucial for prospective officers to have strong customer service skills. "Some people can speak very well, but not like people. But [donor services officers] must like people and want to help them."

Wide range of skills are needed

  • Candidates typically begin their careers as assistant donor services officers. It takes two to four years for them to be promoted.
  • Donor services officers can choose to remain in that role, or specialise in areas such as fund-raising, marketing and administration.
  • Depending on the charity, candidates applying for the position of donor services officer will be required to have graduated from Form Five, or obtained a post-secondary education. They should also have about five years experience in customer service, or data entry. Good telephone skills are also necessary.
  • Successful candidates might also have experience in banking, charity, administration or telemarketing.

Maintaining relationships 

  • Donor services officers are expected to follow-up promptly with supporters and external parties after speaking with them. Any delay by the officer reflects badly on the charity.
  • They should be attentive to detail, well organised, and have a strong sense of responsibility in order to ensure that they can maintain relationships with donors.
  • They should also be able to multitask and handle pressure. They may be required to deal with different tasks at once, such as handling phone inquiries, receiving people at the charity's offices and arranging volunteers for an event.


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