Part One of a two part series
Are you looking for a new career? A career with opportunities for growth?
Maybe you were laid off due to changes in the economy, or maybe you feel it is time to make a difference while making a living, or maybe you are entering the job market for the first time — why not consider a career in fundraising or fund development? The increasing number of non-profits who need to grow their fundraising and a shortage of trained and experienced professionals combine to make fundraising an ideal career. .
You might find work with grassroots organizations, colleges, hospitals, national organizations, foundations, advocacy organizations, research institutes, churches, radio and television stations, or political campaigns. All of these organizations rely on fundraising for some or all of their revenue.
Fundraising is the process of soliciting gifts, and fund development is the ongoing process of identifying and cultivating current and prospective donors. They require similar skill sets and experience. You may already have some of the skills need because fundraising and fund development are close cousins to sales and marketing in the private sector.
For non-profits, revenue can be secured through tuition, sales, donations, sponsorships, interest from endowed funds and other mechanisms. Most people who work in fundraising and fund development are engaged in encouraging and soliciting donations. They work closely with volunteers, board members and often the CEO or Executive Director as they cultivate and solicit gifts.
As a fundraising or fund development professional you get to work with some of the best people around: People who care, people who lead, people who give. And people who want to work with you. As you gain experience your career opportunities will increase as will your ability to make a meaningful impact on your community.
We always remind people new to this field that the work is about the organization and those it serves and not about you. People won’t be giving to you; they will give 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.
You may be surprised to learn that most of the time spent fundraising is actually spent on preparation. Asking for funds is an activity that takes the least amount of time. Often the “ask” is made not by fundraising staff but by volunteers who are trained and supported by staff. So if you are afraid of asking for money, don’t be afraid of a career in fundraising. You can overcome fear by learning the techniques used by professional fundraisers. In fact as you get more involved in the profession you will come to realize that fundraising is not about “twisting someone’s arm” until they give. Rather fundraising and fund development is about creating and sustaining relationships between people and organizations that allow individuals, families and businesses to give money, time and resources to the causes they most believe in.
Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts” and the “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success: The 18 Things You Need to Know as a Fundraising Professional, Board Member, or Volunteer”. Follow on twitter @saadshaw.