One of the most important jobs in any nonprofit is that of fundraising. Fundraisers are absolutely essential to any nonprofit organization and often enjoy higher salaries, a top place in the organizational chart, access to the powerful and connected people who serve on the board, and high regard in their communities.
How Do People Get Into Fundraising?
I remember when I went from a corporate job to the Director of Development at a local affiliate of a national nonprofit. Can you believe that I didn't even know what "development" meant? I bet a lot of people don't. "Development," in nonprofit circles, means fundraising. I had to go look it up. Good thing I did or I would have embarrassed myself. I had been a former teacher, then jumped to a corporation and then to nonprofit. I've never looked back.
Lynda Lysakowski, author of a fantastic little book titled "Fundraising as a Career: What, Are You Crazy?" did know what development meant because as an employee of a bank that encouraged volunteerism, she had been involved with numerous fundraising activities for her alma mater. Eventually, she realized how much she enjoyed that fundraising and made the jump from corporate to nonprofit as a fundraiser.
Amy Eisenstein, author of a recent book on fundraising, 50 A$ks in 50 Weeks, was graduating from a public administration and nonprofit management program and knew she wanted to be an executive director of a nonprofit eventually. She "hated" fundraising but knew that it was a necessary skill that she would need if she became head of a nonprofit. So, she got a job as a fundraiser in a small nonprofit where she had to do everything herself. She fell in love with fundraising, to her surprise, and stuck with it. Today she is a respected consultant to nonprofits large and small.
What Jobs are Available in Fundraising?
There are a number of job possibilities within fundraising. Not all of them even require personal contact with donors. Linda Lysakowski, author of the excellent "Fundraising as a Career: What, Are You Crazy?" lists these specialities that often reside within a nonprofit's development department:
- Planned Giving. Planned giving is all about securing end-of-life bequests from donors or setting up sophisticated giving instruments such as gift annuities. Planned giving is an excellent choice for attorneys, financial planners or bankers who wish to move into the nonprofit world.
- Major Gifts. Major Gifts fundraising does require a lot of face-to-face contact with prospective donors. Donors of large amounts of money require extra care and sometimes complicated negotiations. The position is often highly paid.
- Campaign Specialist/Director/Manager. Special campaigns such as a capital campaign are fast moving and complex undertakings. Developing an expertise here means easy transfer to another organization, into consulting, or even to the head of a nonprofit.
- Annual Giving. Annual giving programs are key to nonprofits. They provide dependable annual income and often turn up major donors who can write large checks for special projects. Annual giving campaigns might involve direct mail, a telephone solicitation effort, and online fundraising. Annual giving specialists thrive by maintaing energy, creativity, and versatility.
- Corporate Giving. A position in corporate giving might involve drafting a proposal for a corporate foundation, organizing an annual business appeal, seeking sponsorships for a special event, or setting up a cause-marketing program with a corporation. Such a position is particularly suited to people coming from the business world, especially if they have excellent contacts there.
- Special Events. If you love to throw a party, this might be the ideal job for you at a nonprofit. The bigger the nonprofit, the more special events there are likely to be. You might find yourself seeking sponsorships, managing the calendar, doing the budget, working with volunteers, setting up a national meeting, and more.
- Writing. Good fundraising demands good writing. If you can write well, you could specialize in grant writing, or development of fundraising materials from newsletters to direct mail letters to online fundraising appeals. Some nonprofits such as universities and hospitals even produce magazines. Small organizations may require all its fundraisers to write materials themselves, while larger nonprofits may offer specializations in various types of writing. Look here if you have journalism or PR creds.
- Research, Data Entry and Donor Management. Are you data-driven? Have a talent for all things technical? Good at databases? Love a research challenge? Fundraising is based on information research. Fundraisers want to know all they can about individuals, foundations, and corporations that might give them money. Not to mention all the record keeping that has to be done.
How Much Do Fundraising Professionals Earn?
Fundraising is one of the better compensated areas of nonprofit work. The fundraising field is expected to expand as the number of nonprofits grows exponentially. There is also considerable churn within the field as fundraising professionals earn their chops and move up and out. Besides that, the tidal wave of retirements that is underway is sure to stimulate growth.
Examples of Median Salaries in Fundraising:
- Annual Gift Coordinator in Higher Education-Baltimore, MD $55,739
- Grants/Proposal Writer-Washington, D.C, $61,767
- Fundraising Director-Minneapolis, MN $117,630
- Planned Gift Director, Higher Ed-Seattle, WA $100,222
These examples came from Salary.com. You can look there for job titles and their salaries in any geographic area, free of charge. Salaries vary widely depending on location, size of nonprofit, type of nonprofit, and level of responsibility.
So, would you like to have a career in fundraising? Here are some resources that will get you started:
- Fundraising as a Career: What, Are You Crazy? by Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE, Charity Channel Press, 2010.
- How to Find the Nonprofit Job You've Dreamed of.
- Eight Tips for Jumping Ship: For-Profit to Nonprofit Career