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Career Story: Development Officer For A Private Business College

Development Officer For A Private Business College

Job Title: Development Officer (Fundraiser)

Type of Company: I work for a four-year, private business college.

Education: University of Wisconsin--Madison, BA in Journalism; •• SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, MS in Natural Resources Policy and Management.

Previous Experience: I was a journalist for a dozen years, did public relations for a half-dozen years, and have been working in development (fundraising) for 11 years.

Job Tasks: I am a major gifts officer. I visit with alumni and friends of the college and invite them to consider supporting the institution through financial gifts.

To be considered a "major gift," the value must be at least $50,000. In many cases, these gifts are in the form of a pledge that is paid to the college over a number of years, usually one to five. A one-time gift of up to $10,000 is considered an "annual gift," and we will seek at least that level of support from such a donor each year.

I have a list of about 200 prospects that I am expected to visit with and cultivate for support. My list includes alumni throughout New England who attended our graduate programs and obtained an MBA degree. I also travel to the Midwest a half-dozen times per year to visit prospects. In the Midwest, I visit not only with MBA graduates, but also undergraduate alumni, the parents of students and alumni, and other friends of the college. On a good day, I make four prospect visits. In all, I strive to make about 100 visits per year.

Each prospect visit follows a request, or sometimes several requests, to meet. After the visit, I send a thank you note, and often follow up with more detailed information, or perhaps a proposal seeking support for the college. I also write a Contact Report for every visit so we can maintain and improve our understanding of individual prospects.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: It can be a rewarding experience when you find someone who may be interested in supporting the college, and you can help to create an opportunity for them to feel great about making a gift to the institution. However, it can be difficult to reach out to alumni and convince them to meet with you, and sometimes you find that they are unhappy with the college, or with your efforts.

Job Tips: Communications is the key to this job. You must learn to listen well, ask good questions, and be clear both when you speak and when you write. In addition, it is important to believe in the non-profit institution that you work to support. As in sales, you will have a hard time convincing someone to support an organization if you do not personally believe in that institution.

Additional Thoughts: Development is a career that many liberal arts major find themselves in at some point in their lives. It is competitive and challenging, but can be quite rewarding. You need confidence and drive to succeed in this career.

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