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,” says Dawn Rains, executive vice president, 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
The best fundraisers artfully connect an organization’s work with how people want to make an impact in the world. Rains notes that fundraisers 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 enjoy variety. 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.
And they write — a lot. 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 says.
FUNDRAISING JOBS ARE ON THE RISE
Across the nation, fundraising jobs are expected to grow by 9% through 2029, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That number more than doubles in Washington state, where O*NET projects 32% job growth during that same period.
Common Job Titles
Development Director, Development Manager, Executive Director, Annual Fund Manager, Major Gifts Officer, Fundraising Manager, Fundraising Coordinator
U.S. (2020-30): 9%
Washington state (2018-28): 32%
Median Annual salary
U.S. (2020): $118,430
Washington state (2020): $129,930
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET
Seattle’s booming economy has made the area one of the nation’s most competitive fundraising markets. 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 says.
HOW TO GET STARTED IN FUNDRAISING
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. 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 are really experienced generalists, people who understand the entirety of the fundraising cycle and what it means to be a donor-centered fundraising department,” Rains says. “You get some of all of that in the certificate program.”