So you want to be a fundraiser?

Graduation is a time for inspirational speeches, dreams of what can be, and a look into the future. Even if we ourselves are not the ones graduating, the optimism can be contagious.

Success isn’t about how much money you make. It’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.” – Michelle Obama.

group of university graduates at graduationWe know that the next generation of fundraising professionals is amongst the class of 2019. Some of you may have your fundraising career plan already marked out. You may be brimming with wonderful ideas, dreams and visions you want to bring to life working for a nonprofit, especially as a front line fundraiser. This column is for you – and for those who are considering a career transition, or a return to the paid workforce. Many a graduate has found herself five, ten or 25 years from graduation in the role nonprofit fundraiser, executive director, or college president. The road towards this career is often winding, with many “falling into” this life, and others being asked to serve after a successful career in business or government.

You have to be a special individual to overcome the challenges that nip at the heels of a fundraiser so that you can reap the benefits that come with this profession. This is a career that is half art and half science. You need to learn the science and practice the art. And you need to keep your eyes open: there are pluses and minuses to being a fundraiser. It’s neither as easy nor as hard as it may appear.

Business People jump for Success AchievementHere are some of the benefits of fundraising career

  • You meet and work with the best people on the planet
  • You provide an avenue for people to do good
  • You change lives by offering hope instead of despair
  • You become a motivator and supporter of people who want to get involved
  • You become a change agent
  • You experience personal fulfillment
  • You sleep well at night
  • You become a manager of people and resources
  • You are a visionary
  • You are more creative than you would have imagined

Man walking on road searching for job or career.Alas, there are challenges too. Here are a few:

  • You will never be in the public spotlight
  • Your work will often go unrecognized
  • Fundraising is known for its abundance of failures and few successes
  • The hours are long and often grueling
  • There is an unrelenting pressure to succeed
  • The pay and benefits, depending on who you work for, are often low
  • You will rarely have the resources you need, yet you will be expected to succeed as if you did
  • The leadership of your organization won’t understand what it takes to raise a dollar
  • Your superiors and volunteer leaders won’t appreciate your work
  • You’ll never have enough money, time and resources simultaneously

Keep your eyes and heart open – you can make a difference in people’s lives. We want you to be successful.

Earlier columns on the topic of a fundraising career include:

  1. New Year – New Career – Fundraising. Part One (2013)
  2. New Year – New Career – Fundraising. Part Two (2013)
  3. Fundraising – You’re New Career (2009 – includes links to earlier columns with additional information on career opportunities.)

Don’t forget:

Copyright 2019 – Mel and Pearl Shaw

Saad&Shaw are hosting a fundraising workshop at the Ocean City Jazz Festival July 4th through 7th in North Top Sail, NC. Join us there. Learn more at

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