How to Succeed in Your First Fundraising Job

When I transitioned from working in corporate to higher education, I had to learn an entirely new playbook.  I had experience in marketing, sales, email campaigns and all things business, however I had to learn a whole new set of rules about fundraising for higher education and athletics.

If you’re beginning a role in fundraising, I have no doubt that your current skills will prove valuable during your transition. However, make sure to look at the following steps as you start your new journey on the job.

Do your research. As with any job, do your research with regard to the school or organization before and after you secure a job. Find out what their strengths and weaknesses are, and how your unique skillset will be an asset to their team. Once you arrive, immerse yourself in what your role truly entails, including projects your supervisor is looking for you to spearhead.

Ask questions. Use your newness to your advantage. It’s better to ask questions during your first few weeks on board to build a solid foundation with the organization. No question is stupid, especially if this is your first time working in this field. If you manage events, speak with donors and are responsible for valuable, confidential pieces of information, ask as many questions as possible when you are new.

Understand terms. Fundraising, like many industries, will reference a very specific set of terms. Familiarize yourself with the popular definitions so that industry-specific discussions and tasks make sense once you begin. 

Meet with peers. Meet with some of the top fundraisers at your new job. Ask questions, take notes and do what you can to understand why they are successful in their role. Not only will you receive industry insight, but you will also build relationships faster.

Put in extra time. If you want to be good at your job, hit the ground running and be willing to put in extra time in your new role. Greatness takes time, so be willing to come in early, stay late, or read materials on your commute home.           

Be humble. Okay, so you may have been the greatest thing since swiss cheese at your old job… but this is not your old job. 🙂 The reality is that when you begin a new role in an unfamiliar industry, there will be things you’ll need to learn. Be humble, embrace advice and accept help. Acknowledging that you don’t know something doesn’t mean you’re weak. Instead it shows that you are confident enough in your abilities to recognize where you can learn more, and how you can add to your professional repertoire.


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