Tag Archives: careers

You might be a grant writer if…

GrantWritingFor those considering new career paths, this blog post will give you food for thought. Here’s what we know: if you can write clear and compelling proposals you will be in-demand.Check out You might be a grant writer if….


New Year – New Career – Fundraising. Part One

Part One of a two part series

Are you looking for a new caCareer Dayreer? 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.

Your fundraising quarterback: Staff

Fundraising: Nonprofit board roles and responsibilities – Part 4.

Have you heard this before: “We’ll hire the right person and they will raise the money.” Hmmm…. If only fundraising were so simple. Here’s a short list of problems associated with this perspective. First, the board is ultimately responsible for fundraising and needs to be engaged at all times. Then there’s the issue of how to identify, hire, manage and retain experienced fundraisers. Let’s not forget the adage “people give to people” which includes peer-to-peer fundraising.

While fundraising staff cannot go it alone, there is plenty they can and should focus on. Their number one priority is to support and supplement the fundraising work of board members and volunteers. Fundraising professionals are actually volunteer managers who identify, motivate and support the work of volunteers. They have strong people skills.

As a means of supporting volunteers, staff develop materials that “make the case” for giving to your organization. They develop and manage the fundraising plan, organizing the work of volunteers, employees and others. Working closely with the CEO and chair of the development committee, they keep the board up-to-date on fundraising successes, challenges, and opportunities.

They also maintain accurate information on current and prospective donors, produce reports that show funds raised from different sources using different methods; manage online and direct mail campaigns; write proposals and submit reports to funders; send thank you notes and gift receipts; and manage special events.

Fundraising staff are responsible for building infrastructure and capacity. They help ensure marketing and communications tie to fundraising, and, as appropriate, help develop cause marketing programs and donor benefit packages. They focus on fundraising all day, every day.

Finally, here are some things to consider. Demand for experienced fundraisers is greater than the supply. Many individuals have experience in one or two aspects of fundraising, but may not have experience with the methods your organization uses. Staff need to be managed by the executive director. They need to have measurable goals they can reference when allocating their time on a daily or weekly basis. “Raising enough money to cover the budget” is not an adequate goal and will not ensure the financial health of your organization. We recommend goals such as “prepare for and facilitate six meetings with fundraising volunteers” or “identify 30 new prospective donors who can give $1,000 or more” or “working with board members identify three local businesses interested in pursuing a cause marketing program.”

When hiring, consider people new to fundraising with successful sales experience. Many understand the identification, cultivation, solicitation, stewardship cycle and are experienced meeting goals. Always allocate time for staff to attend meetings or conferences of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and for other training and networking opportunities.

© Copyright Saad & Shaw.  Mel and Pearl Shaw are the owners of Saad & Shaw. They help non-profit organizations and institutions rethink revenue sources. They are the authors of How to Solicit a Gift: Turning Prospects into Donors. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com or call (901) 522-8727.

The dangers of staff-led fundraising

In this column we define and discuss the differences between volunteer-led fundraising and staff-led fundraising. With volunteer-led fundraising board members are actively engaged in cultivating, soliciting and sustaining relationships with individuals who can support your organization with gifts, resources and connections. Current donors and friends take a leadership role in soliciting gifts and promoting your organization.

With volunteer-led fundraising your development staff plays the role of supporting and facilitating the work of board members and other fundraising volunteers. Development staff can accompany volunteers, provide an orientation to the organization’s vision, mission, fundraising priorities and programmatic accomplishments. They can record gifts, manage special events, produce reports, write proposals, facilitate introductions – but they aren’t the people responsible for raising the majority of the organization’s funds.

With staff-led fundraising staff are charged with meeting an annual fundraising goal independent of the engagement and leadership of board members and volunteers. The responsibility for meeting fundraising goals rests on the shoulders of staff who may or may not have the skill set, experience and relationships required to meet the organization’s annual goal. And then there is the issue of time – there are only so many hours in a day and one, two or three staff people cannot accomplish what a larger team of well trained and motivated volunteers can accomplish. The pressures associated with staff-led fundraising often contribute to burnout on the part of development staff. National average tenure for development professionals is low – three-to-four years, the pressures are high, and the demand for these professionals far exceeds the number of experienced and talented individuals available.

One of the major risks associated with staff-led fundraising is the departure of staff. Losing a staff person charged with fundraising can create challenges that are hard to overcome. While the causes of staff-turnover are varied, the result is that information and relationships which have sustained your organization often walk out the door when staff leave. Unless meticulously captured in your donor management system, your organization won’t know about upcoming proposal submission or funder reporting deadlines, the giving preferences of specific donors, and the marketing outcomes specific corporate partners are seeking to achieve. Relationships with your major donors will need to be rebuilt. The time it takes to recruit a new person and prepare them to begin the work of fundraising can set you back months.

When volunteers and board members are engaged with fundraising relationships and information are often shared amongst a larger group of people. Your organization has more “faces” in the community, and the work of cultivating and soliciting can continue during the search for new staff.

Increase your odds for success – invest your time and resources in developing and sustaining a volunteer-led fundraising program.

© Copyright Mel and Pearl Shaw.
Mel and Pearl Shaw are the owners of Saad & Shaw. They help non-profit organizations and institutions rethink revenue sources. They are the authors of How to Solicit a Gift: Turning Prospects into Donors. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com or call (901) 522-8727.

Bridging Town and Gown: Looking Beyond Academic Credentials

In today’s competitive marketplace academic credentials are not enough. Recruiting educators, administrators, faculty and staff with a history of community engagement can create a double win for your campus. Members of the campus community who participate in the local community are an asset. They help bridge the gap between “town and gown” and can help attract students, resources, funding, partnership opportunities, and goodwill.

Members of the campus community are ambassadors and dispel misconceptions about a disengaged college or university when they serve on boards, volunteer their time and talent, and help other organizations and institutions meet their goals. They help attract students when they personally invite community members to campus events. New employees meet individuals and families and begin to become part of a community that may be new to them, reducing feelings of isolation.

A healthy campus and community relationship offers personal, professional, and networking opportunities to employees at all levels. A healthy reciprocal relationship also strengthens the institution’s standing in ways that impact fundraising – an all important institutional priority.

Here are 10 things a recruitment officer can do to strengthen community relations.

  1. Partner with the Advancement Department to create How to be an ideal volunteer workshop and handbook. Most advancement departments have extensive experirence engaging and managing volunteers.
  2. Include information on volunteer opportunities in new employee packages.
  3. Highlight volunteers and their service in campus publications.
  4. Meet with members of leading non-profits to learn about how they impact the local community, what their needs are, and how campus employees can help.
  5. Encourage non-profits to actively recruit faculty and staff to volunteer. Facilitate meetings between nonp-profit leaders and select faculty, staff and administrators with specific skills and connections that can make a differernce.
  6. Ask your president or chancellor to create a culture that encourages top administrators and faculty to serve on local boards and provide technical assistance.
  7. Encourage faculty to attend local events and participate in organizations related to their discipline.
  8. Identify campus ambassadors who can help relocating employees connect with individuals and leaders within the community.
  9. Offer incentives, awards, and recognition to campus members who are engaged with the local community.
  10. When recruiting and interviewing ask applicants about their community service experience. Let them know from the beginning that it is valued at your institution.

Planning for change – executive transition


Byron Johnson, Project Director, Compasspoint Nonprofit Services

Change is a part of our personal lives and a part of organizational life. We asked Byron Johnson at CompassPoint Nonprofit Services a few questions about the process of planning for a change in executive leadership.

What is a succession plan and why is it important for a non-profit organization to have one?
Succession planning builds staff skills towards achieving an organization’s strategic vision, builds the leadership capacity of staff, and develops a pool of potential management successors.  It also provides the opportunity for some organizations to diversify their agency leadership.

What should the succession plan include?
There are two types of written succession plans: 1) an emergency succession plan, and 2) a departure-defined succession plan.

An emergency succession plan ensures that key leadership and administrative functions and services continue without disruption in the event of an unplanned, temporary absence of an administrator. It should include the following components:
1. A current description of the key functions of the executive director
2. A list of functions that would be covered by an acting director, what his or her authority would be, and which functions would be covered by other staff, e.g., government funder relations covered by the Director of Programs.
3. Who has the authority to appoint the acting director.
4. Standing appointee(s) to the position of acting director (with first and second back-ups) and compensation for acting director(s).
5. A cross-training plan for the identified back-ups that ensures they develop their abilities to carry out the executive director’s key functions.
6. A description of how the Board will support and supervise an acting director.
7. A communication plan in the event of an emergency succession (who gets notified and when).
8. An outline of procedures to be followed in the event that an emergency absence becomes a permanent absence.

What are the challenges we might face if our executive left and we didn’t have a plan in place?
Lack of succession planning can result in what we call a post-transition “meltdown”.  An organization can become so traumatized when faced with the prospect of dealing with an unplanned leadership transition that program delivery, funding, and by extension, the whole community can be adversely affected.

What is a departure-defined success plan?
A departure-defined succession plan is created when an organization’s leader has announced they will leave in two or more years.  This plan includes identifying the agency’s goals moving forward, determines what the skills their successor will need to achieve those goals, and identifies what in the agency needs “upgrading” (board governance abilities or fundraising capacity, as examples) in order for the agency to advance their goals.  The two year planning timeline gives the departing executive and others time to address some of the upgrades before the successor comes on board.

Related to this is another way of thinking about succession planning: Strategic Leader Development, which is the ongoing practice of defining an organization’s strategic vision, identifying the leadership and managerial skills necessary to carry out that vision, and recruiting and maintaining talented individuals who have or can develop those skills.  This is also sometimes referred to as “building the bench”.

What should a departure-defined succession plan include?
It should include the following elements:

a) A plan for dealing with the personal and professional barriers for the executive director who’s leaving.
b) Setting a date for the executive director’s last day in the office.
c) Any plans for grooming their successor (when appropriate).
d) Integrating the succession plan into the agency’s broader strategic plan.
e) A communications plan—who will be told when about the executive’s planned departure?
f) Conducting a “Sustainability Audit” to identify the operational upgrades needed.
g) Plans for solidifying the management team, if applicable.
h) Identifying board and staff back-ups for the executive’s key relationships.
i) A plan for putting finances in order.
j) A plan for building financial reserves and securing multi-year funding.
k) Agreement on the ED’s emeritus role, if the departing executive will have an ongoing formal relationship with the agency.

How does the presence or absence of a succession plan impact fundraising?
Most funders and supporters breathe a sigh of relief when there is some form of succession planning rooted in an organization.  Knowing that the organization can and will continue in the face of leadership transition makes everyone feel at ease and as a result prevents many fundraising hiccups that may occur during a transition.

For more detailed information on success planning visit www.compasspoint.org or www.transitionguides.com.

Byron Johnson, CFRE is a Project Director for CompassPoint Nonprofit Services, one of the country’s leading nonprofit consulting organizations, based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Prior to joining CompassPoint, he worked in senior development positions for San Francisco State University, the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation, and the YMCA of the East Bay. A past board member of the Golden Gate chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, he is currently an advisory board member of the Multi Cultural Alliance, a special year-round fellowship program designed to diversify the fundraising profession and to develop skills among aspiring under-represented fundraising professionals. Mr. Johnson consults in fund development and other areas of organizational capacity building, which include fundraising planning and coaching, strengthening foundation and individual donor development work, and donor solicitation training.

Fundraising – Your New Career

new_careerLinks 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:

  1. 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.”
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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