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Career Story: Director Of Fundraising Communications For A State University

Director Of Fundraising Communications For A State University

Job Title: Director Of Fundraising Communications

Type of Company: I work for a major university.

Education: BA, English, Ohio State University •• MA, Journalism, Ohio State University

Previous Experience: I worked for six years as an arts editor for a weekly "alternative" newspaper, then two years doing public relations for a professional ballet company that knew me from my work at the newspaper. My current employer hired me three years ago to be a general editor--writing and editing stories for newsletters, press releases, proposals, etc. I took advantage of every opportunity to do new things, I did a good job, and I made a point of being easy to work with. When my boss was moved to another area, I was offered his position and jumped at the chance.

Job Tasks: The university I work for receives lots of donations and contributions to support scholarships, research projects, and other important things that go on at the school. I direct a team of people who create communications tools that help our co-workers who meet and talk with donors about causes within the university they might be interested in supporting. One person creates proposals for use on potential donors, describing how their contributions could be used. For example, we created one for a man who graduated in engineering some years ago, outlining how a particular amount of money would help build a new building and create a scholarship for future students. He liked the idea and gave several million dollars!

Another person on my team runs the intranet (an internal website) that provides information, forms and other important materials for the 180 people who work in the overall fundraising department. A third person on my team writes news releases about gifts that have been made to the university and the awesome things that they make possible, and she works with reporters to help them write articles. Those articles let people know about the great things the university does--like finding a cure for a disease, or discovering a new planet--and what a big difference people can make by contributing money for those projects. This person also helps create invitations and programs for events that the university hosts for our donors.

The fourth person on my team is a graphic designer who does layout for proposals and invitations. Occasionally he gets special assignments like designing stationery, a neck tie and a woman's necklace for our top donors to receive. Personally, I write reports for our senior vice-president that go to the president, the university trustees and other people who monitor and participate in our fundraising efforts. I also write speeches for the university president and senior vice-president to use at events where they are asked to speak.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of being director of communications is there's a lot of variety in the work we do, a lot of writing, which I enjoy, and lots of opportunities to be creative. It's also fun to create something that you know someone is going to pick up and read and enjoy, and maybe learn from. And I love working for a university in particular because I believe in the mission of educating people, creating knowledge, and serving others.

The hardest part of my job is managing multiple deadlines and working on tight timelines. It requires good organizational skills and the ability to work nicely with other people even when you're feeling stressed out.

Job Tips:
1. Save everything you write--you never know when you'll be asked for writing samples, and there are a lot of ways to show you can write. (I got my newspaper job because they liked a story I wrote for my own homemade 'zine!) 2. Take advantage of opportunities to build your skill set. A good writer is good, but a good writer who also knows how to do page layout is great! 3. Learn how to interview people and ask questions. These are the best ways to gather information, and following your curiosity can lead you to cool facts and stories to share.

Additional Thoughts: Something that surprises me about my job is that I get paid to make decisions that seem like no-brainers to me, that anyone could make--namely, what certain people should say, whom they should say it to, and how they should say it (a letter? a fancy report? an email?). However, I have come to understand that not everyone can process all those factors as well as I can. In life, if you find something that seems easy to you, don't assume it's because it's easy for everyone. It could be that you have a valuable skill that you could make a career out of!

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