Is a Fundraising Career Right for You?

by Olson, Randall Tuesday, March 18, 2008
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Is it important to you that the work you pursue makes positive contributions to society and people in need? Do you like the idea of helping a worthy cause raise the money it needs to provide valuable services in your community or to a larger service area? If so, a fundraising career might be a perfect choice for you.

Who Hires Fundraising Professionals?
Many different types of nonprofit organizations hire people to work in a fundraising capacity. Health services organizations, such as the American Diabetes Association, American Cancer Society, the March of Dimes, and other similar groups often hire for development officer, special events coordinator, and volunteer services director positions in local, regional, and national offices.

Colleges and universities also hire fundraising professionals. Virtually every institution of higher education has one or more staff members dedicated to alumni relations and fundraising efforts. Many schools also have staff members dedicated to writing grants to fund academic and applied research. Some even have corporate giving specialists on staff.

Arts organizations often have fundraising professionals on staff. Most museums, symphonies, ballets, operas, and other similar groups rely heavily on grant funds, corporate donations, and general solicitation campaigns to fund their activities. Public radio and television stations also depend on the same types of resources for financial support.

Position Preference: Fundraising Generalist or Specialist?
Many small organizations hire fundraising generalists, who handle all aspects of philanthropy, ranging from recruiting volunteers, special events, corporate campaigns, grant writing, solicitation campaigns, and other types of efforts to bring in needed revenue.

Larger organizations with very active fundraising divisions are likely to have more specialized positions. They may have a person on staff whose primary or only job is to research funding opportunities and submit grant applications. They may have someone else to handle coordinating and promoting special event fundraising activities.

There are entry-level and advanced employment opportunities available for both generalists and specialists. The type of position that is right for you really depends on whether or not you will be happier becoming an expert in one aspect of fundraising, or if your preference is to be involved in every part of the process on an ongoing basis. Both types of jobs can be quite rewarding for the right individuals.

Not Quite Sure?
If the idea of a career in fundraising appeals to you, but you're not quite ready to commit to a career in the field, you can always try volunteering with a nonprofit organization for a while. Most nonprofits depend heavily on volunteers to help achieve their fundraising goals. Your volunteer experience can help you decide whether or not pursuing a career in philanthropy is a good option for you.