Today is my birthday. Birthdays are typically a day of reflection. I certainly look back on this day and think about my life and career. I acknowledge where I have been and where I want to go in the future. Since my career has been in the nonprofit profession, which also consists of fundraising, I noticed a book in my personal library that I wanted to share with you.
If you are in the fundraising profession and intend to stay in this field, read this book that is titled “Careers in Fundraising.” My dear colleague Dr. Lilya Wagner is the main author of this book published by John Wiley & Sons in 2002.
The information contained in this book is timeless. What I love about this book is the nature of it. Each of its 25 chapters and sidebars consists of a different writer. These writers represent years of experience and talents. I was also blessed to have been asked to write a sidebar in this book on how to work with a boss.
I want to share highlights of the various book sections with you as each element is important to remember.
Understanding the Nonprofit Sector and the Working Environment
According to Aristotle, “To give away money is an easy matter and in any man’s power. But to decide to whom to give it, and how large and when, and for what purpose and how, is neither in every man’s power nor an easy matter. Hence it is that such excellence is rare, praiseworthy and noble.”
Fundraising professionals have a major role to play in influencing donors to make gifts that change lives. Philanthropy is significant in U.S. culture and society. Over time, this sector has evolved through the professionalism of practices and processes.
Fundraising is a critical element in the preservation of values. According to Robert L. Payton, fundraising is part of philanthropy and is a voluntary action for the public good. An excellent fundraising professional must understand the concepts of philanthropy, the nonprofit sector and civil society. They also must understand the changing nature of the profession and understand the blending of arts and sciences.
The Fundraising Professional’s Role
Fundraising is a thoughtful process of asking people to invest in causes that enhance a civil society and provide solutions to human problems. It involves the practice of good stewardship and accountability as donors invest in organizations that matter to them. Fundraising professionals must understand the definition of philanthropy and have a framework for work based upon a personal mission, values and brand vision for their employment. The fundraising professional is important for a nonprofit’s overall success. It is a grueling job that is extremely rewarding. Fundraising has elements of a ministry and a job combining service with skills.
Fundraising professionals must realize the sector is under increased scrutiny with constant demand for accountability and transparency. They must also realize at times that sectors become blurred, and the public must be educated about the third sector impact. There is continued emphasis on results and impacts from funds raised. Professionals must follow a standard of ethical principles for professional practice. In a career path, understand what fundraising is, create a mission of service, seek knowledge of fundraising, acquire a development position, continue professional development and develop sound leadership skills.
Preparing for a Career in Fundraising
Development professionals must obtain proficiency in verbal communications, interpersonal skills, math, written communication and business skills. Academic preparation is a must through undergraduate and graduate work, certificate programs and fellowships. Strive for continual on-the-job training and mentoring whenever possible.
According to James Greenfield, a timetable for a professional’s career should be as follows:
- 0 to 8 years in fundraising: Entry level assignments, mastery of the methods, specialty concentration.
- 5 to 10 years in fundraising: Manager of fund development programs, specialty assignments and competency.
- 8 to 15 years in fundraising: Executive for resource development.
- 10+ years in fundraising: Senior management executive and institutional leadership.
Issues and Aspects of a Fundraising Job
According to writer Kevin McCarthy, there are four questions that a person planning a career should ask: why am I here, where am I going, how will I get there, and what will I choose to do and not to do? Some ways to manage career advancement are inventory your skills and achievements, acquire a reputation for being an expert, volunteer for projects with influencers, take courses to hone skills, network in professional associations, and be prepared to take calculated risks to advance your career.
To succeed long term, be a team player and learn about the organizations that you aspire to work for in the future. Understand that fundraising is a stressful career, and you need tools for handling stress. Some tools to consider are to be a good planner, live for the present, define what can be solved, be realistic about what you can do, realize you will fail at times, keep in good physical and mental condition, manage your fears, and get away from work from time to time.
Conducting the Job Search
If you are looking for a fundraising position, develop a plan and set goals for a job search. Identify resources and gain an understanding of the possibilities. Build a network of people and organizations. Prepare a quality resume, and prepare in depth for interviews. Develop a strategy that builds on your preparation and determine your areas of interest for fundraising. If you are having a career crisis, make sure you exit your career position gracefully. Determine when it is time to move on. Always keep a positive attitude. Make sure you understand it takes time to complete a quality job search, especially in our current employment environment. Never ever burn bridges as it is not worth it!
Excellence and Equilibrium
Every fundraising professional must work with excellence. Professionals must work at a high level and be true to one’s personal and professional mission in life. The characteristics of success in fundraising are ability to inspire confidences, passion for the cause, ability to speak and write well, ability to motivate people, knowledge of development practices, a vision for the future, ability to identify priorities, knowing how and when to act, exemplifying personal skills, plus having commitment in implementing plans.
If you plan to have a career in fundraising, embrace it and enjoy it. If you are not fully committed to this profession, change careers. As I have said many times, our jobs are very physically and mentally demanding. That said, if you genuinely care about people, our sector, our society, and want to make a difference, thank you. The book “Careers in Fundraising” is timeless and as relevant today as it was 20 years ago. One thing for sure is that experience never lies.
F. Duke Haddad, EdD, CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. In addition, he is also president of Duke Haddad and Associates, LLC, and freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the past 13 years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration, master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University in business administration, with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.