Links updated: 2014
Is it time for you to start a new career? Is it time to make a difference in the world? To use your best skills for the benefit of those things you believe in the most? If so it may be time for you to become a fundraiser. Fundraising was listed as one of the top 30 careers for 2009 by US News and World Reports. (Thanks for Michael Magane for bringing this article to our attention!) What exactly is fundraising and why would anyone want to be a fundraiser?
Fundraising is a career with many opportunities for people with a variety of skills. We wrote about this at the beginning of 2008. At that time real estate agents and mortgage brokers were reeling from changes in the housing market. We wanted people to know that the skills people have developed in these industries could be transferrable to fundraising. Today there is an even greater pool of people with strong skills, connections and experiences who can help build and sustain the fundraising capacity of non-profit organizations, hospitals, colleges, universities and churches. We updated our columns in 2009. (Links available at end of post)
We define fundraising as the process of bringing together organizations and institutions with the people and resources they need to deliver on their mission. It’s not arm twisting. Its’ not begging. It’s about partnership. It’s about helping individuals, families, businesses, corporations, foundations and government agencies identify those organizations who share their beliefs and who are bringing them to life.
Here is what we know about fundraising. People give to a diverse array of institutions, causes and programs. And there is a role for people with diverse skills, backgrounds, personalities and connections. Fundraising is conducted by professionals and even more so by volunteers. As a profession with a career-path there is room for introverts and extroverts, big-picture thinkers as well as people who are detail-oriented. It is for people who lean right politically and those who lean left. It is for people who are in career-transition, who are looking to make a difference and who are willing to learn. And it is for African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans and other people who until recently have not been well represented in all aspects of the profession. With changes in American demographics and the growth of the non-profit sector the need to diversify the profession creates new opportunities who people who have been volunteering with their churches, sororities, local schools, colleges and universities. And there are opportunities for people who are changing careers – whether voluntarily or involuntarily.
We believe our three-part series on the topic of careers in fundraising may be even more relevant now than it was originally written. Here are a few key points:
- Positions are available with grassroots organizations, colleges, hospitals, national organizations, foundations, advocacy organizations, research institutes, churches, radio and television stations… — all types of organizations and institutions that are categorized as “nonprofits.”
- If you are able to secure work with a hospital, college or public radio or television station, you will learn the systems and procedures that represent best practices in fund development and fundraising. Working for one of these institutions can provide you with insight into the many different strategies and activities that comprise fundraising.
- If you can remember that your work is about the organization and those it serves and not about you, then you can be successful. People won’t be giving to you; they will be giving to the organization you represent. Your job will be to best promote its successes, the vision of its leadership and how donations are used to advance goals and programs.
- There are many entry-level, midcareer and senior-level positions within fundraising and fund development. There is also a gap between the number of positions that need to be filled and the number of individuals who are qualified to fill them. (Part three of the article lists common fundraising job titles and provides descriptions for these).
Part One – Fundraising and fund development in the nonprofit sector are close cousins to sales and marketing in the private sector. Learn about the benefits of a career in fundraising and fund development.
Part Two – Find out what positions are available within the fields of fundraising and fund development