Fund-raisers are usually employed in one of three different ways. They may be members of the staff of the organization or charity in question. For example, many colleges and hospitals maintain fund-raisers on staff, sometimes referred to as solicitors, who report to the development director or outreach coordinator. They may also be employed by fund-raising consulting firms, which for a fee will help nonprofit organizations manage their campaigns, budget their money and resources, determine the feasibility of different revenue programs, and counsel them in other ways. Many for-profit companies also have fund-raisers on staff to plan and conduct charity social events, such as fund-raising balls, formal dinners, telethons, walk-a-thons, parties, or carnivals. Corporations perform these philanthropic functions both to help the charity and the community and to generate favorable publicity for themselves.
The key to landing a job in fund-raising is experience. Both private consultants and nonprofit staffs prefer to hire fund-raisers who have already worked on other revenue drives. Because their budgets are always tight, nonprofit organizations are especially reluctant to hire people who need to be trained from scratch. Some small organizations that do not have a budget to hire full-time fund-raisers may use volunteers.
Colleges offer many opportunities for gaining experience, because nearly every college has at least one staff member (more than likely an entire office) in charge of generating donations from alumni and other sources. These staff members will have useful advice to give on their profession, including private consulting firms that hire fund-raisers. A student may have to serve as a volunteer for such a firm first to get to know the people involved and potentially to be considered for a permanent position.
In a private consulting firm, fund-raisers can advance to higher-paying jobs by gaining experience and developing skills. As responsibilities increase, fund-raisers may be put in charge of certain aspects of a campaign, such as the direct-mail or corporate appeal, or may even direct an entire campaign. Those who work for a large social service or nonprofit agency will also find that promotions are determined by skill and creativity in handling difficult assignments. After gaining experience with several nonprofit agencies, some fund-raisers move on and start consulting businesses of their own.
Tips for Entry
Visit the following Web sites for job listings:
Read publications such as Advancing Philanthropy (http://www.afpnet.org/Publications/IssueList.cfm?navItemNumber=544) and the Chronicle of Philanthropy (https://philanthropy.com) to learn more about the field.
Participate in information interviews with fund-raisers. Ask them for education and career advice.