As the Seattle area grows in nearly every way, so do the needs of charitable organizations that depend on people to donate their time, skills and resources. Along with all of this, also comes a need for professionals who can oversee the business side of the equation.
This is where fundraisers come in.
Despite what the title may imply, this role involves a lot more than soliciting money. “Fundraising is all about relationships,” said Dawn Rains, chief policy and strategy officer for the nonprofit Treehouse, which supports youth in foster care. “Donors are treated as partners in the work, as opposed to an ATM machine. Asking for money is probably only five percent of the job.”
THE ART & SCIENCE OF FUNDRAISING
Common Job Titles
Development Director, Development Manager, Executive Director, Annual Fund Manager, Major Gifts Officer, Fundraising Manager, Fundraising Coordinator
Projected Job Growth
Washington State: 16%
Median Annual Salary
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Labor Insights, O*NET.
The best fundraisers artfully connect an organization’s work with how people want to make an impact in the world, said Rains, who brings more than 25 years of fundraising experience to her role as an instructor for the Certificate in Fundraising Management
As a fundraiser, Rains noted, you also need to know the science behind fundraising success — how to read and present financial data, analyze behavioral trends and measure what approaches to fundraising are most effective.
Fundraising jobs are a good fit for people who want jobs with variety. As Rains noted, a typical day might range from developing big-picture strategic plans to working out details of direct mail or online marketing campaigns.
Fundraisers host meetings and calls to involve donors in decisions — like how to invest money from a matching-gift campaign or to set eligibility criteria for a scholarship program. They also showcase giving opportunities and celebrate success at events. For example, they may attend a banquet where they can introduce donors to people helped by an organization or attend a ribbon cutting at a donor-funded facility.
And they write — a lot — Rains pointed out. From grant writing to putting together revenue reports and composing personal correspondence, fundraising requires writing chops.
“We're always in the process of making the case for support to people in a variety of ways,” Rains said.
COMPETITION HEATS UP MARKET FOR FUNDRAISING JOBS
Across the nation, fundraising jobs are expected to grow by 7 percent through 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That number more than doubles in the state of Washington, where the BLS projects 16 percent job growth during that same period.
Seattle’s booming economy has made the area one of the nation’s most competitive fundraising markets, Rains explained. So as agencies build up their fundraising teams they want new hires with standout strengths: analytical thinking, communication skills, financial acumen and ethical leadership.
“There's just lots of competition for charitable dollars, so you have to be really good,” Rains said.
People who have worked in jobs that rely on customer relationships, such as inside or outside sales, often find that their people skills are transferrable to fundraising roles, Rains said. Significant volunteer experience — with a nonprofit board or development committee, for example — can also be a plus.
The Certificate in Fundraising Management offers the extra advantage of a professional practicum, where students are placed with a local nonprofit for fieldwork that applies their new knowledge and skills.
“One of the things I think the fundraising field is lacking just a little bit right now are really experienced generalists, people who understand all of the fundraising cycle and what it means to be a donor-centered fundraising department,” Rains said. “You get some of all of that in the certificate program.”