A Job In Fundraising, No Way!?

By Phil Gérard

I felt compelled to write this today because of two conversations this week with  aspiring yet disillusioned fundraisers.

Of the many rewarding moments in my job is when I meet promising, talented individuals who have an interest in breaking into the field of fundraising and I can just tell they have a great future ahead…

Unfortunately, there seems to be an uninspiring attitude out there for this next generation of fundraisers, coming from some members of the fundraising community.

Twice this week alone, I have heard from such promising individuals that the advice they have received from professionals in the field, is that it is tough to get in. Your best bet is to volunteer for at least a year with an organization until they maybe give you an entry level job.

In my opinion, this is very old-school thinking, and is sending the wrong message. In order to be one of us you need to make a sacrifice and work for nothing before we consider you worthy of entering our profession. Dan Pallotta would love this one!

What I think the message needs to be, and I continue to emphasize it to aspiring fundraisers, is this: Put yourself out there, go to AFP minglers and breakfasts, sell yourself, and keep trying – keep trying! I’m not saying that it is easy. Networking for a months and applying for 20 positions may not do it. So don’t give up easily. Education is not enough to position yourself in a competition. Don’t wait until you graduate from a fundraising program to start your search. The whole package is important. Get a job as soon as you can, continue to sharpen your skills through education and continuing education and most importantly start raising some money!

I have met several individuals who kept trying and one day called me up excitedly to tell me that they got a job in fundraising! It is definitely not impossible! It’s like with everything else, those who are persistent and focused on the prize will succeed eventually.

It’s very much like we say in fundraising – activity will lead to success!

5 thoughts on “A Job In Fundraising, No Way!?”

  1. I feel that this article is talking about me! Phil, thank you very much for all the support you provide to young fundraisers like me and we will definitely keep trying until we succeed =)

  2. I agree 100% Philippe. Passion, commitment is needed – but a plan of action too! Think about parts of the sector ( health, community, poverty, faith etc.. ) and then possible names of charities you’d want to work for. Find out where they play and hang out in that sandbox. Important post.

  3. Thank you Phil. I do agree with the comment; “this seems to be the old way of thinking.” My experience leads me to believe that the break into fundraising is less of a problem in the industry than the lack of good leadership. Corporations have been investing in up and coming employees for years but many non-profit leaders make it far too difficult for young employees to gain experience; this results in a poor start to their career when they finally do break in. I have been blessed with a good leader and see our program as an outlier to this discussion as we continue to hire up and coming staff and promote from within.

  4. Phil,
    Thanks very much for your insightful comments. I could not agree more, particularly with your advice to begin looking PRIOR to graduation from a fundraising program. Interviewing skills need to be learned, practiced, and this is easily done while developing understanding of other practices and skills.
    Thank you!

  5. I think Kyle’s comments should be highlighted and reiterated. I think people working in the non profit field have made unnecessarily difficult to enter the profession. Let’s face it, we’re not paid that well and somehow we think we should be making it harder for people to get into this field? It’s nonsensical.

    People who have the skills to be great marketers and fundraisers can make 100K within 5 years of working in the corporate sector. They’re empowered and given opportunities to shine. In the NFP sector, people who are just beginning their careers are disregarded, lack professional development opportunities and rarely are they empowered to take initiative.

    There are talented, passionate people out there – but we’re losing them, because we have some absurd notion that people should network for months to get a 40K a year job sitting at a desk, entering data into Raiser’s Edge and asking permission to speak to a donor.

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