Go Ahead: Admit You're a Fundraiser in 2018

By Terri Shoemaker

I met a former colleague the other night for drinks. We worked together at a nonprofit that was disbanded and she was having a hard time accepting her new job title:  professional fundraiser at a family support organization.

She was stressed out by her executive director, her board and a disappointing holiday appeal. If she made it through her first fundraising season, she did not plan to double down and become proficient in the trade. She hoped to find yet another new job—far away from the world of fundraising.   

Every kid’s dream: to ask people for money!

No one grows up wanting to become a nonprofit fundraiser. It’s not a well-known career. So, most of us  take winding paths to get here. Take me, for example. I started out in video production (!), but later went on to earn my master’s in nonprofit management. 

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in 20 years of fundraising it’s this: if you want to be successful at the job, you have to own it. No one is going to give you millions of dollars unless you’re fully committed. 

So resolve in 2018 to own it and repeat after me: 
My name is _____ and I’m a fundraiser. It’s my job to inspire people to change the world with me and my charity by giving money. This will make them feel good. When I’m successful, all of us together will make the world a better place to be. 

See, that wasn’t so hard. Now comes the action part. 

Signs you might be a fundraiser

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share some of the tips I’ve learned over the course of my career. I call these the Save Our Sanity Kit.

You’ll see step-by-step how to put together a successful appeal, as well as how to balance some of the unique stresses that fundraisers face.

But for now, here are 9 signs that you might be a fundraiser:

  1. You want to help people change the world in a way that's meaningful to them.

  2. You like telling stories about the good your organization does because of generous donors.

  3. You die a little inside every time you hear someone say "junk mail."

  4. Your heart dances when you get a 4-figure gift or a new monthly donor signs up.

  5. You care about whether the staff at your nonprofit gets paid.

  6. You loathe the person with the latest gimmick that's (supposedly) going to out-raise direct mail.

  7. You're the one that says out loud at work, "Everyone at a charity is a fundraiser."

  8. You discover the fundraising you've done is now the most marketable part of your resume.

  9. People start treating you like you know what you're doing when it comes to fundraising.

It’s ok. Embrace the joy and pain of being a (gasp!) professional fundraiser – and let’s get to work!

Terri Shoemaker is co-founder of Abeja Solutions, a fundraising marketing firm in Phoenix, Arizona. A professional fundraiser, Terri has raised millions of dollars for nonprofit and higher education institutions.