Fundraising is how nonprofits, non-governmental organizations, arts and cultural groups, charities, and other entities with a social purpose meet their budgetary needs. By building relationships with foundations, philanthropists, corporate sponsors, and individual supporters, these organizations are able to pursue their important work without having to sell their products or services at a profit or otherwise compromise their mission.
While fundraising is different from the way private companies raise capital from investors in exchange for equity or dividends, it isn’t necessarily easier. Fundraising and development professionals rely on marketing just like any other business in order to connect with potential donors whose interests match their organization’s and goals. And just like a private company, the support of the board of directors is critical to maintain, as they are an important conduit to both funding opportunities and guidance in keeping the organization’s operations aligned with its mission.
If you have a talent for connecting with people, strong budget management skills, and want to make a difference in the world, a background in fundraising can be a gateway to a rewarding career. Nonprofit organizations of all kinds rely on fundraising experts including development directors, grantwriters, and donor relations staff to make their important work possible.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fundraisers earn a median annual salary of $57,970, and typically have an educational background in public relations, journalism, communications, English, or business. These jobs are expected to grow much faster than average over the next decade, and, with charitable giving rebounding along with the economy, these professionals are needed more than ever.
Definitely. Successful nonprofit fundraising requires a specialized set of skills and knowledge, and Coursera offers a range of opportunities to learn them online on a flexible schedule. You can take individual courses on fundraising as well as Specializations spanning multiple courses from top-ranked schools like University of California Davis, The State University of New York at Buffalo, and University of Maryland College Park. And, because your tuition will be significantly lower than for on-campus students, learning about fundraising on Coursera can be a smart choice to help you manage your own budget.
While you don't necessarily need any special skills or experience to study fundraising, a background volunteering or working for a nonprofit can be helpful. A background working in fields like education, business, or public relations may also be beneficial. Many people who focused on humanities courses at the high school and college level, such as philosophy, gender studies, English, or art history, find themselves gravitating towards learning about fundraising and development. Any experience with research, social media, writing, and event planning can also help prepare you for both learning fundraising and possibly turning that education into a career.
Working in fundraising or development means you should be a good manager, both of projects and people. That means you'll also need to be a good communicator, with both superb written and verbal skills. Because you'll be asking people to give money, you must be assertive, even when dealing with such a sensitive topic. People who work in fundraising are motivated and especially dedicated to the cause for which they are raising money. You must also be able to multitask. In addition to managing a particular fundraiser or group of people working on a fundraiser, you may need to write grants, cultivate new donor relationships, execute social media campaigns, plan events, seek corporate sponsorships, and more.
There is no one specific path towards a career in fundraising, but there are several subjects you can study that can help you get there. Communications, public relations, English, and journalism are always beneficial. You can also prepare yourself for a role in fundraising by learning more about business, finance, sales, marketing, and advertising.
Nonprofits are the top employers for people who have a background in fundraising. This might include religious, civic, or professional organizations. Educational institutions, ranging from private preschools to colleges and universities may also depend on fundraising. Health care institutions, hospitals, and social assistance programs may hire people with a background in fundraising and development. You may even find yourself working at a museum or theater.
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