Fundraising as a Career

Out of all the careers you could choose, why would you choose fundraising?  The hours can be long; donors can be demanding; targets can be tough to reach; and potential donors can often say no.

On the other hand, you will have the opportunity to work with people from across your organisation to develop and deliver projects; you can use your creativity to solve problems, craft proposals and ‘make the ask’; you will gain a vast amount of skills – from event management to proposal writing, negotiating to data management – and everything in between.  No two days are ever the same and you have the chance to meet some truly fascinating people – from those who work in different areas of your particular organisation, to your volunteers and donors who come from a range of backgrounds and experiences.

I originally set out to work in arts administration (after finally admitting to myself that I was never going to be an actress!).  My first ever experience of fundraising was being asked to write an application to the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation (or Charitable Trust as it was then) to help the touring theatre company I worked for equip their new accommodation.  It was 1994 and when they sent the cheque for £12,000 it was my first taste of fundraising success! 

I then had various arts administration jobs, where I also dealt with trust applications and sponsorship alongside everything else.  It wasn’t until 1996, when I landed a job in a post-1992 university Development Office, that fundraising became the main element of my work. 

It was a very different landscape to now.  While most of the older, more established universities had been fundraising for some time, the post ‘92’s were playing catch up.  And internally, we were very much seen as a novelty by many of our academic colleagues.  One of the offices I worked in was funded by top slicing all of the departmental budgets to be able to afford to set up our department.  Needless to say, we  had to work hard to get our colleagues on board and it wouldn’t be a lie to say that was a difficult task – although we did achieve it in the end (due in no small part to raising our campaign target two years ahead of schedule). 

Fast forward 14 years and it’s a very different situation with universities young and old having Development Offices focused on proactively engaging with a range of high net worth individuals, trusts and the corporate sector. 

On a personal level, I’ve moved from fundraising being one of a number of tasks, to it being the main focus of my career, as I now work as a fundraising consultant.  But I’m glad that I made the move into fundraising and that I followed my particular career path.  Working a variety of organisations, large and small, has meant that I understand where many clients, particularly those without fundraising staff, are coming from and how best they can resource their fundraising to sustain their future income generation.

Do you think you would like to become a fundraiser?  What’s stopping you?  Or have you been a fundraiser and decided to move into a different field?  If so, how has your experience helped you to do that?

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