Thinking about looking for a fundraising job, but held back by the thought of “I can’t ask for money.”
How many times have I heard that? With those simple words, thousands of people each day take themselves out of a career that could easily be one of the most rewarding, interesting, and passionate experiences of their life.
To be sure, not everyone is cut out to be what is known in professional circles as a “development officer.” But what they don’t know, and what most development officers find out the hard way, is that ridiculously small percentage of their time is spent actually making “the ask.”
In fact, if you do your job right, the person or organization is so enthusiastic about your mission that it is not as much a request for funds as it is their offer to help a critical mission.
The key point for anyone thinking about getting into fundraising is that there are seven primary ways to raise money in the non-profit world, each with their own, often overlapping, set of activities. For example, the typical annual fund program uses four of these, raising money through mailings, web sites, telephone, and – oh yeah, they ask people, too!
If they hold a special event, organize volunteers to sell something and write a proposal to a foundation, they’ve done some element of all seven. Each of these methods is a specialty in themselves. Some even have their own professional associations!
Secondly, there are support functions – at least five of them in any fundraising office. In small organizations, it could be that one person does all of this – providing a great diversity of duties. But in a major hospital system or university, each individual function often employs five or ten people.
For instance, one of these is maintenance of the fundraising database programs. There are several major vendors that provide software to keep track of gifts made to an organization, not to mention tracking which fundraisers have talked to which potential donor. Experts in this area are highly sought after.
So what’s all this mean to you, the person who is looking at fundraising as a career option? What it means is that if you have a passion for the mission, then there’s a fit for you somewhere in the development office.
When someone says, “Have you thought about fundraising?” beat back the image of the back-slapping, car-salesman type who shakes your hand with his right while reaching for your wallet with his left!
Instead, think of the corporate fundraiser greeting the CEO in the board room, or the planned giving officer meeting quietly in the older couple’s living room, or the grant proposal writer in the office in front of the computer, or the direct mail specialist working with the mail house, or… you get the idea… and one of these could be you!
About the Author
Matt Hugg, president of FundraisingTransitions, uses his 20 years of charitable gift fundraising experience to help non-profit fundraisers, and those who aspire to be non-profit fundraisers, find the jobs they want at the organizations they love.