Ok – have that question of why you want to work in philanthropy answered? Good, because you’ll need the insight to continue in the job search process. Only by understanding motivations and passions can we face the second question: “what kind of jobs could you have in philanthropy?”
Throughout nine years in the philanthropic sector and this job search, I’ve learned that there are more jobs in philanthropy (and with a variety of different titles) than I could enumerate. Want to work for a higher education institution, like the University of Michigan? Or a smaller non-profit doing hands-on work with people in the community? Maybe a job in grants management with a foundation would better suit me? Is it the mission of the organization that matters to me, or the actual tasks I’d do?
I’m still working on answering these (and many more) questions, but here’s some of what I’ve learned about the specific types of jobs in the philanthropic sector that has been useful. First, there are administrative assistant positions, which are good for getting your foot in the door. They can give you a lot of exposure and let you figure out what you like in philanthropy.
In fundraising, there are also positions in a variety of areas, including major gifts, annual giving, events, corporate and foundations giving, planned giving, stewardship, alumni relations, gift processing, prospect research, and many more. Development generalists work in a number of these areas and are typically called development assistant/associate/coordinators/managers, while specialists focus on one of these areas and titles are area-specific (ex – major gift officer, stewardship coordinator).
Other opportunities in non-profits include hands-on program work and management, grant writing, and volunteer management/coordination, depending on the mission of the organization. Program jobs give you the opportunity to work directly with issues and people while getting hands-on experience with a non-profit. In foundations, there’s work in grantmaking, evaluations, foundation programs, and fundraising – work covered by grant managers/coordinators, program assistants/associates/officers, and support staff.
I’ve listed a few job possibilities here, but the best way to research jobs in philanthropy isn’t to read a blog post – it’s by figuring it out for yourself. Peruse job descriptions to discover what fits with your work style, skills, interests and passions. Volunteer with an organization to understand their needs and challenges. Do informational interviews with people in the sector to learn about what they do, what kind of jobs they’ve had, and advice they can give.
Sounds like a challenge? Yeah, it is for me too. But, in the end, I’m learning a lot about the sector (and myself) while working on finding the job that’s “right”. Just gotta keep believing!
Post by: Katelyn Videto, D-SIP 2009