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Career Story: Program Officer At A Charitable Organization

Program Officer At A Charitable Organization

Job Title: Program Officer

Type of Company: I work for a statewide community foundation which seeks to encourage philanthropy across the state. We work with individuals, families and non-profit agencies to invest money and make grants to charities and other non-profit groups.

Education: BA and MA, English, North Carolina State University

Previous Experience: I worked as a fundraiser and then director for the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. I also worked for state General Assembly and the US House of Representatives. All of these jobs have given me the skills I use every day in my current job.

Job Tasks: I work with individuals, families and non-profit agencies, like United Ways and charities, to establish endowment and scholarship funds. Fund holders use the income from these endowments to make grants to charities they want to support. I also work with volunteer boards in a number of counties to make grants from county-specific endowment funds, and I provide support and fundraising advice to the groups.

A typical day usually includes writing and responding to email and phone calls, writing press releases and board meeting minutes, evaluating grant applications and managing several scholarship funds. I travel at least one day per week to attend meetings with fund holders and volunteers, and I also plan and attend fundraisers several times a year. During the week I also spend time reading journals such as the "Chronicle of Philanthropy," "Philanthropy Journal" and publications distributed by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the trade association for charity fundraisers. I also try to scan the Raleigh News & Observer, New York Times, Washington Post and CNN sites for relevant articles and information.

Officially, my work week is 35 hours, but I usually work 40-45 hours per week, including some nights and weekends, and sometimes I can log in about 60-70 hours/week, especially if I have a lot of board meetings or grant applications to process.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best parts of my job are the variety of tasks and people I deal with every day. I also have a lot of autonomy to set my own schedule and priorities. The worst part is that I am never really caught up. There is always another report to finish or press release to write. It would be nice to have some administrative support; sometimes there is way too much data entry.

Job Tips: Learn how to write, clearly, concisely and efficiently. That ability has helped me immeasurably in every job I have ever had. Also, be prepared to do a lot of grunt work such as filing, stuffing envelopes, cold calling, and minor office equipment repairs. (Everyone should know how to fix a paper jam and replace toner.) Non-profit careers require a lot of flexibility, creativity, a good sense of humor and a high level of interest and curiosity about people and the world.

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