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Fund-Raising Specialist


Most people have participated in at least one fund-raising event at some time their life. Schools always hold grassroots fund-raising events in order to raise money for a student activities. Contests such as "how many jellybeans are in the jar?" and bake sales are such examples we have grown accustomed to. Yet fund-raising also takes place in businesses and organizations that are in need of funding. For instance, if a hospital needs to build a new ward to accommodate the growing number of patients, a fund-raiser will work on getting the money to build the new wing. Since government funding in many social sectors is virtually non-existent these days, fund raising is an important and necessary philanthropic career designed to help organizations desperately in need of funding. It is no longer only a volunteer position.

Fund-raising specialists are responsible for organizing and executing fund raising campaigns in order to raise money for particular groups or causes (hospitals, non-profit organizations, community groups). They formulate policies and procedures and direct volunteers, corporations and other organizations to meet the fund-raising target. They are also responsible for preparing reports on their progress to date, directing and organizing special events, and motivating and encouraging volunteers.

Fund-raising specialists begin their campaigns with research. They may conduct community surveys to test public opinions about the organization and find out why previous donors contributed to their organization. Once the information has been compiled, they design a fund-raising plan outlining issues like the role of each volunteer and staff member, the budget allotment, public relations strategies, target audiences and how donors will be thanked. If the plan gets the approval from the parent organization, the fund-raising campaign coordinator gets into motion and executes the campaign. They prepare mailing lists, solicit funds from donors and handle public relations tasks, amongst many other duties.

Depending on the amount of money raised, fund-raising events can often quite ornate and elaborate, such as telethons, formal banquet dinners, charity sports games and marathons. If the ultimate goal of reaching the proposed monetary target happens, the fund raising specialist will receive public recognition and possibly personal satisfaction for attaining his or her goal. Nevertheless, fund-raising can be extremely stressful, because it is not easy asking people for money and there are strict deadlines to be met.
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  Interests and Skills  
Fund-raising specialists must work with high levels of energy and enthusiasm, be persistent and ethical when campaigning for an organization and generally have a strong interest in the community or organization they are working for. Above and beyond all characteristics, fund- raisers are top-notch communicators, both in person and in writing. They love to "schmooze" and advertise their campaign. They are often thought of as personal motivators, persuading and inspiring people to help donate money to their cause. Finally they are self-confident, born leaders and can direct a group of people towards helping their cause.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Develop fund-raising plans and strategies
  • Implement fund-raising strategies
  • Raise money for operating budgets and capital needs as well as long-range trust funds
  • Recruit and train volunteers to work as fund-raisers
  • Prepare submissions and grant proposals and make presentations to service clubs, corporations, foundations and other community groups and individuals to encourage donations
  • Handle public relations activities such as writing news releases, newsletters and feature stories or participating in radio and television interviews
  • Plan and administer budgets and information management practices
  • Conduct fund development audits and feasibility studies
  • Fund-raising specialists spend a typical day talking on the phone, in meetings, in training sessions or speaking to community groups. These meetings can take place during the day, in the evening or on weekends. Therefore, working hours are irregular and can range from five to 14 hours. The days leading up to the event or campaign can become extremely stressful and hectic, adding extra hours to already long work days. There is often traveling involved in this career. Fund-raising specialists usually work in office settings.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • All types of non-profit organizations including health facilities and institutions, educational institutions, religious organizations, cultural and arts groups and social service agencies hire fund-raising specialists. Some fund-raisers work for consulting firms or independently contracting out their services on a freelance basis. Fund-raisers also work in the public sector and are hired by governments.

  Long Term Career Potential  
The potential for experienced fund-raising specialists in larger organizations is the possible advancement to campaign director of top events such as formal charity dinners or marathons. Advancement may also require the fund-raiser to move to another location or employer, say from a small grass roots level to the large corporate institutional level.

Volunteering spare time on other campaigns will boost experience and give a fundraising specialist more job opportunities. Also, fund-raising specialists could also move into any communications, marketing or public relations positions since the skills involved in both industries are so similar.

  Educational Paths  
There is no specific educational path to becoming a fund-raising specialist. Most have a minimum of an undergraduate degree or a college diploma in a wide variety of backgrounds. Volunteer work is a huge step when trying to gain experience. There are so many campaigns and fund- raising events one can volunteer for, which is a good way to learn as much as possible from professionals. Fund-raising specialists are usually quite knowledgeable about a wide variety of fundraising techniques, government legislation related to fund-raising activities, and able to use computers to compile and interpret statistical and financial information and present financial reports.

The National Society of Fundraising Executives (NSFRE) offers upgrading and educational courses for fund raisers looking to upgrade their skills and learn new techniques. They also offer research grants and other membership rewards. Courses in public relations are also useful for fund-raisers who communicate with the media and the community.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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