Moving Up the Career Ladder in Philanthropy
Harvey Green, CFRE
Originally published in the February 16, 2017 AHP Connect
Contemplating a career change?
As spring approaches, many of you may be considering what your next career move may be.
According to the IRS, more than 1.5 million nonprofits are registered in the United States alone. In 2015, more than $300 billion was raised in philanthropic support. In my conversations with industry recruiters, I have learned that at least eight jobs exist for every marketable fundraiser. We are embarking upon an age where a massive transfer of wealth is occurring—Baby Boomers are now doing their estate planning, and as they look to avoid significant estate taxes and provide for their children and grandchildren, we can expect to see more gifts being made to nonprofit organizations.
The good news is you don’t have to show a track record of having raised millions of dollars before securing a promotion or a new job as a fundraiser, but you should have some fundamental relationship-building skills and the ability to understand the process of identifying potential donors for an organization.
Here are a few things that might be helpful as you look for your next fundraising position:
- Develop a compelling story or personal reason about why you are looking to take the next step in your health care philanthropy career. You will most likely have to tell this story to your interviewers and donors, as they will want to know your level of interest and passion for the organization that you represent.
- Boost your resume and exposure in this industry by joining one of AHP’s volunteer committees, presenting at conferences or webinars, becoming an AHP Member Ambassador or facilitating a Peer Group on the Huddle.
- Ask if you can take on additional fundraising responsibilities. If you work in events or annual giving, perhaps there may be some opportunities to go on a call with a major gift officer or even take on a small portfolio of donors.
- Volunteer for an organization similar to the one you wish to join. This most likely won’t be a paid opportunity, but it will help supplement some necessary experience, as well as give you a taste of what working for that organization is like.
- Take courses—programs may be offered in your community or perhaps online, in which you can educate yourself further about the nonprofit industry. Understanding topics such as the legal ramifications of a 501c3 and what an endowment is will be helpful in advancing your career.
- Network at AHP conferences. I can’t remember how many informational interviews, coffee and conversations I had when I first started out. Having the right mentor was key for me and was also helpful when the time came for me to interview. You’ll find new friends, and maybe even a mentor, at industry events.
As I was once told by a successful CEO and President of one of the largest nonprofits in Harlem, New York about fundraising, “Stay on this path—it will bring you rich rewards.” I encourage you to explore, learn and stay on the path of maximizing the skills that you have accumulated this far and use them for the greater good of humankind.