Dear Kim:

I want to be a fundraising professional but I am not sure where to start.  Should I get a graduate degree in nonprofit management?  Should I join a Board of Directors, and if so what kind of board will give me the biggest boost toward getting a job?  What kinds of certification should I seek?  As you can see, I know very little and the guidance counselor at my college is not very helpful.

~Class of 2010

Dear Twenty Ten:

You are asking a lot of important questions, and I am pleased that you want to pursue a career in fundraising.  There is one question you need to ask and answer before you can answer any other question and that is:   “What do you believe in?”

Once you answer that, then you need to answer a few more specific questions. Do you want to work in a social service agency or an advocacy organization? Are you more drawn to community organizing or to research and policy?  You may not know all this right now, but you probably can rule out some types of organizations.

Once you figure out your basic values, focus on a few issue areas and approaches to those issues, it will be clearer whether you need a degree or not.  For example, if you want to be in development in a big art museum or at a large symphony, you will do well to get a graduate degree in fine arts management.  If you want to work in the development department at a university or a very large social service agency, a graduate degree in nonprofit management might be very helpful.  To get on the ground experience, serving on the Board of Directors of a small organization where the board gets involved in a lot of aspects of the work would be invaluable.  Volunteering on a fundraising committee for almost any good nonprofit will also be very helpful to you.

But start with what you care about.  The real professional is mission driven.

Keep in touch!

~Kim Klein