Fundraising for Nonprofits

Inspiring Gifts that Transform

Friday, August 31, 2007

Help wanted: Good pay and benefits

Welcome to the land of fundraising, we need you! Look around. It’s a complex world where people feel isolated, powerless and fearful. From threats of global terrorism to global warming, today’s challenges seem overwhelming. Like you, my heart breaks when I see someone forced to live on the streets or go without health care. There must be a better way, but what is it?

What if we lived in a world were we cared for our neighbors? What if instead of being fearful of differences we embraced them? What if instead of feeling helpless, we lived a life of abundance? That is the gift you give to others when you become a fundraiser. By connecting donors with the gentle joy of giving, you help them discover what it means to be human. In joining with others and giving to those in need, donors recognize they already have everything they need.

You are the Johnny Appleseed of generosity. Years from now you will look back and see all the young children you helped graduate from college, the local park that was once an toxic landfill, and the community center built in the middle of former gang turf and know your life was one well lived.

Here’s my recommended steps for entering the field.
  1. VOLUNTEER: What good cause do you care about? Development offices are always looking for volunteers to stuff envelopes and help out at events. My first fundraising gig was volunteering to write grants for a small arts group. Join a nonprofit board. Even without experience, if you are willing to support fundraising efforts, you’ll be snapped up.

  2. LEARN: Take classes, read books and subscribe to blogs. Research your city to find free or low cost training. The Foundation Center offers free classes in five major U.S. cities. In the San Francisco Bay Area CompassPoint, The CBO Center and USF are great resources. I’m a huge fan of the writing of Kim Klein, Hank Rosso and Kay Sprinkel Grace. Today’s thought leaders are bloggers. If you have time to read only one, make it the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Give and Take, which summarizes all the rest. Start developing your expertise now.

  3. NETWORK: Find the nonprofit trade associations in your town. If you're a regular reader of this blog you know I’m a big fan of Development Executives Roundtable, in fact I'm on the board. Five years ago when I decided to change my career I walked into my first DER meeting, stood up and announced I wanted to become a fundraiser. At that meeting I met people who would become my professional colleagues, career mentors and good friends. Other resource include local branches of the Association of Fundraising Professionals or the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network.

  4. START: We all must begin at the beginning. My first paid job was part-time telefunding. A horrible job really, but learning how to ask for money 30 times a day is a good skill to develop if you wish to build a career in fundraising. Now I’m a successful freelance Fundraising Counsel. Last week I turned down an interview to lead up a $45,000,000 capital campaign. I can tell you most certainly that there are always more development jobs available, and the pay scale is higher, than found in other nonprofit departments. If you can learn to raise money, you will never be without work.

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