This post is a complement to a podcast episode of Social Entrepreneur with Nathan A. Webster, of which I am a monthly contributor. Listen to our episode below!
Fundraising is such an important element of nonprofit operations, and as long as there are nonprofits, there will be fundraising jobs to be filled. Fundraising as a career is a great choice, as there are a lot of directions you can go, so there is good job security!
That’s great news, but how do you keep advancing your career as a fundraiser? There are a few tips for helping keep your career moving.
Take full advantage of learning opportunities
Fundraising is a unique job because there is always something to do. There are always more people to reach out to, more donors to thank, and more collateral to make. Take full advantage of all of the activities you are doing, or could do, in your current role. Don’t stay stagnant – explore every facet of your position. If you have an idea, take initiative and go for it! Try new things and pay attention to things that you really love to do. That will give you a better idea of what to look for in your next role.
Explore your options
Once you feel ready to explore new challenges and opportunities, think about what aspect of fundraising you really love. There are so many, that fit with different skills and aptitudes, so think about what you’d like your days to look like.
- Do you love relationship building? Think about Donor Relations, Major Gifts, or Strategic Partnerships.
- Do you love events? Think about Special Events or Community Relations.
- Are you very process oriented, or do you love data? Think about Development Operations or Donor Database roles.
- Do you love to write? Think about Grants.
- Do you love people management & have years of experience in fundraising? Think about becoming a Development Director.
Instead of just applying for any fundraising position you see, be thoughtful about what area of development you would like to go into next.
What about if you’re not sure what area you want to go into, or you want more information? That’s where networking comes in. Find and identify people who have what looks to be your dream job, or close to it. Contact them to set up an informational interview or phone call. Keep the conversation brief, tell them what you are looking for, and ask about their experience. You can get a ton of insight from these conversations. And don’t forget to connect with them on LinkedIn!
And, we all know about those general networking events that are put on by various organizations. If you go to those, have a goal in mind. If you are trying to advance your career as a fundraiser, try to find others who also work as fundraisers and ask them about their career growth. See if what they share resonates with you.
I would not be where I am today without the professional mentors I have been lucky to have along the way. My mentors have been sounding boards that have encouraged me at the right moments and asked critical questions when I needed it. I can’t recommend mentorship highly enough.
But you can’t find a mentor out of thin air. The trick is, when you come across someone you click with (whether it is a boss or other professional colleague), to be vulnerable with them. Share with them your thoughts and fears about your career, and see how they react. If they are a good fit for mentorship, things will naturally fall into place (if you let them in). Don’t worry – we were all where you are once!