Amanda Shephard: Fundraising has come of age as a career choice

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The Independent Online

It is not so long ago that stating you worked for a charity was met with the typical parental response, "when are you going to get a proper job?" After all, fundraising was seen as something for those with time and money on their hands who could spend their days raising funds for others.

Fundraising as a profession has advanced considerably in recent years. There are now around 150,000 fundraising organisations in the UK - all striving to raise awareness and donations for good causes. Charities are set up in response to need, and many deliver public services, so this increasingly competitive marketplace requires a skilled workforce.

You don't join a charity because you can't make the grade in the job you really want; you apply for a job in fundraising because you are excited by the opportunities and varied work the profession offers. You apply because of the very real career prospects, or because the cause is something that you care so much about that you are determined to be a part of tackling it.

Fundraisers operate across a broad spectrum of charitable organisations, and fundraising is a very different job when working with small community groups than it is at the big, brand name charities like NSPCC. You could fundraise for anything from humanitarian aid to the arts, from academic institutions to political parties, from think tanks to religious groups.

Wherever you do it, fundraising is the public face of charity. It links beneficiaries with donors. It's not just a case of delivering essential resources, but about communicating the cause effectively and building relationships with supporters. A fundraiser needs to be an excellent communicator and a positive, enthusiastic person as well as an effective manager. It helps to be really committed to the cause, but even then, fundraising is not an easy job. The reality is that more people say "no" than "yes" so you need to be able to take a few knock backs along the way.

But, people in the UK are hugely generous. They recognise what a vital role charities play and contribute vast sums. Fundraising has come of age and, as a profession, it offers career prospects in the UK and internationally. You can be a generalist or specialise in working with say companies, trusts or direct marketing. Whichever field you choose, there will be opportunities to develop your skills, experience and knowledge exponentially. Whether you are a graduate or you have been working in another profession and are looking to move sector, fundraising offers extensive opportunities.

As a fundraiser you are likely to have to work harder than your private sector contemporaries. You will be expected to meet higher income targets on much lower budgets and you will almost certainly get paid less although salaries are increasingly competitive. But, a job in fundraising is arguably the most rewarding and exciting career you could choose.

The Institute of Fundraising is the professional body for UK fundraisers and offers training and networking opportunities. Visit www.institute-of-fundraising.org.uk for details

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