If You’re Thinking of Becoming a Fundraiser!

By Robin H. Rosenbluth 

Fundraising for a broad range of nonprofit organizations is an ideal way to follow your passion.  It can be a gift that keeps on giving while making a living.  Think about a mission that resonates with you in a profound way, and your passion can give you the power to be believed.  You can make a difference in the world, and that is an opportunity that awaits those of you who are not content in your current position.

There are lots of tricks to the trade about ways to convince an employer to give you a chance in a new field.  Of course, there are ways to tune up your resume into one that is more appealing and write compelling cover letters that tell a powerful story about why you are ready for this transition.  It is a new path that is better to walk along with an advisor. Networking is as relevant in the non-profit world, as it is in the for-profit world.  Just as relationship building is critical for frontline fundraisers, finding professional advocates who can speak on your behalf as you transition to a fundraising job is a tremendous asset.  Have a goal and pursue it!  Confidence and belief in yourself can take you very far.  Joining associations, such as AFP and WIDNY can also advance your network.  If you can find a mentor in the field, you are seriously on your way!

Consider conducting informational interviews to build your network and learn more about the field.  Use Linked In to find people who know fundraisers to whom they can introduce you.  Find out at those interviews: how the fundraiser got into the field, do they have thoughts about how your skills would fit, and ask if there are others they suggest you meet.  Ask them if you can Link In with them so you can stay in touch.  Make sure you do communicate; they may help by recommending you.

Everyone needs to start somewhere, and most of you have some relevant experience under your belt.  To make a transition to the non-profit sector, you do need experience, though most of you can draw upon work you have already done – and you should move forward to undertake new related experiences to help prepare you.  Review your prior jobs and assess any common skills that fundraisers need, such as relationship building, ability to outreach to customers, cold calling, work with high-net worth individuals, selling products, writing skills, ability to learn new issues quickly, research on individuals, and the like.

Skill-based resumes can be your preferred way to highlight comparable skills that align with the job or type of fundraising role that you seek.  Look at the job descriptions of jobs you like to get ideas, and list your skills in the order of what the potential employer lists as priorities for the position.  If you do not have enough experience, go out and get it and make transition a longer-term objective. Contact your alma mater and volunteer to raise funds from your class and identify organizations you admire and offer to volunteer for them.  If you are working full time, you can still volunteer, e.g., write a fundraising proposal, offer to conduct research from home, or make calls to donors. 

You might consider starting at an entry position, e.g., development assistant, if your budget allows you to do so, which will give you a bird’s eye view of how a development operation works from the inside.  Annual fund jobs are a good segue to a major gift job.  Event planning is another good portal, as are writers, researchers, corporate fundraisers and even data entry or marketing options. There are many jobs to be had in fundraising and as many doors you can walk through. 

Another avenue to take to advance your skills is to take some fundraising classes.  There are many places in the NY area to enroll, from a one-off class to a master’s degree program.  Learning the academic mechanics of raising money is always a plus.

 When you get to the point of applying in earnest, be up front about transitioning to the field and be convincing about why you can do it!  Find a knowledgeable friend, a mentor or hire a coach so you can share your resume and cover letter to get feedback and role play for the interview.  While it may take time to enter the field, the reward of doing something you love will be worth the trouble!  

Hear more from Robin at Fundrasing Day on June 22nd

Robin H. Rosenbluth
Advancing Fundraising:  Career Coaching and Consulting


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