Job Title: Special Events Fundraiser
Type of Company: I work for a health-focused, volunteer-driven, non-profit organization.
Education: BA, American Civilization, Brown University
Previous Experience: In college I was a member, then leader, of the student group that planned the annual campus-wide Spring Weekend concert festival. I worked in advertising for a year and a half after graduation prior to starting this job.
Job Tasks: I am the staff partner to 3 groups of volunteer planning committees that put on the fundraising events that I am responsible for. Much of my time is spent recruiting, training, organizing, and assisting the volunteers who carry out the tasks that make the event happen. While I do those tasks myself, my job is much more about managing volunteers.
Since we rely heavily on volunteers, a typical day for me is spent returning phone calls and emails to answer questions or provide resources and materials to the volunteers organizing the event. My organization puts on thousands of these events in communities across the country each year, so we have lots of best practices, templates, worksheets, guidelines, and other resources that I share with the volunteers to help ensure the smooth running of each event. I work with them to customize specific events and to give them a sense of ownership, while still adhering to the necessary guidelines.
I also strive to ensure that all of the volunteers feel appreciated and satisfied with their roles and responsibilities. If conflicts arise between volunteers or something interferes with a volunteer's ability to carry out her tasks (e.g. a family member gets sick and needs to be cared for), I'll step in to pick up the slack or work out a solution so that the event preparation continues smoothly.
There is a lot of relationship management in my job, even though on the surface, the goal is to put on a successful fundraising event.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of mu job is seeing the whole event come together and be successful after a year of planning. Seeing the volunteers take pride in all of the work that they've put into the event is wonderful.
The worst part is getting mired in detail and being forced to focus on the endless list of tasks that we need to complete and forgetting about the big picture and why we're doing what we do. It can be challenging and tiring constantly trying to make sure all of the volunteers are productive and happy. They aren't paid employees so I can't necessarily expect them to behave like paid employees.
1. Get experience managing volunteers. Join then lead, or start and lead, a student group in an area in which you are interested.
2. Take a business course. Business basics are even more important at a non-profit and it's a skill set that will set you apart.
3. Don't worry too much about your undergraduate major but learn how to read critically, think analytically, and write well.
Additional Thoughts: To be successful at this (and many other jobs), you need to be diplomatic, organized, a creative thinker/problem solver, understanding, flexible, patient, able to take charge when necessary but able to recognize when you need to let the volunteers run with something, data driven, and able to handle stress well.
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