While fundraising is fundamentally important for nonprofits, major donor fundraising jobs are still shrouded in mystery. While they get face time within the organization, many people just don’t understand the job itself. However, for people looking to have an impactful career in the nonprofit sector, major donor fundraising jobs have a lot of potential.
Working in a major gift role is a job that requires a varied skill set, interpersonal skills, and a drive for success. Since the financial well-being often lands directly on their shoulders, major donor fundraising jobs require people who are self-driven, motivated and have the best interest of the organization at heart.
Due to needing such a specific skill set, not everyone can jump into major donor fundraising jobs. It takes preparation and experience to succeed in such a position, but there are some things you can do to prepare.
What is a Major Gifts Officer?
A major gifts officer is the person responsible for fundraising within an organization. They are the driving force behind all fundraising efforts, including planning events, conducting online fundraising campaigns, and building relationships with prospective donors.
Major gift officers play an essential role in any organization looking to increase their budget and improve their financial longevity. Nonprofit organizations often depend on regular donations and major gifts to help fund programming for their target population, so this is often a high priority for them. Employing skilled major gifts professionals is an excellent method to fast-track donations.
Major donor fundraising jobs are networking-heavy, so there is often a lot of travel involved. It may involve giving presentations, conducting meetings, and following up with previous contacts after rejection. Major donor fundraising jobs require exceptional interpersonal skills and experience and a willingness to put yourself out there to become one of the best.
Major Donor Fundraising Jobs – Requirements
A role in major gifts takes many people out of their comfort zone. It is the role of major gift officers to build and maintain relationships with potential donors, coordinate fundraising meetings, ask for donations, and provide stewardship after receiving donations.
Due to the nature of the job, it is important that prospective hires have a comprehensive understanding of the structure of nonprofits and the board of directors. Fully understanding the target population, the opportunities available, and future goals will help you succeed. Understanding the hierarchy and processes in this type of organization will help you ace the interview.
Understanding that it is a primarily social career path is vital. While the job also requires planning, strategizing, and analyzing data, most of your time is spent cultivating relationships. Being able to freely talk and discuss the big picture goals of the organization and express how a potential donor can help make an impact build a successful career.
Following up with donors and showing them how their dollars are being used helps ensure that they will donate again and again, hopefully securing a future planned gift. Stewardship is an often undervalued part of the fundraising process, but a specialized employee can help improve statistics in this area.
Generally, people looking to land major donor fundraising jobs have post-secondary education. Most organizations look to hire someone with at least a bachelor’s degree, although some more prominent nonprofits may look for higher education. While they often seek people with business or social sciences backgrounds, any background may be accepted in combination with work experience.
Qualities of a Major Gift Officer
Several qualities line major gift officers up for success. Having a social personality is essential as the majority of your work will be relationship building. It is important to convey confidence in this role so that potential donors trust you and you can easily establish rapport. You have to be able to jump in, initiate conversation, and be bold in your interactions in order to be successful in this career. This job is well suited to extroverts and charismatic people.
Another important quality is to be able to handle rejection well. Major gift officers have to ask for potentially large sums of money directly, and although you hope that your research has led you to the right donor, often times the ask is rejected. Understanding that this has nothing to do with you, picking yourself back up, and asking another donor is key.
Major donor fundraising jobs require exceptional public speaking skills, so a background in debate or giving public presentations is essential.
Professional fundraisers also do well when they have an eye for marketing. Reading a room or thinking of innovative ways to market the organization for optimizing donations can make or break meeting your fundraising targets. Incorporating storytelling into your interactions with target donors can help you reach out and demonstrate the impact of their involvement.
Skills in psychology, brand stories, data analysis, and communication are important to highlight in your resume and interview.
How To Land A Major Donor Fundraising Job
The easiest way to land a major donor fundraising job is to prove yourself in your resume. For this role, nonprofits generally want to see people with nonprofit backgrounds. Volunteering on the board of directors for a cause that is important to you is a great way to understand the inner workings of an organization. You can get a front-row seat to the fundraising processes and budget goals that are important to a successful nonprofit. Putting this on your resume will put you head and shoulders above other candidates for this role.
If you can’t join a board of directors, it is also helpful to volunteer in programming. Showing your dedication to the success and longevity of a cause looks very good to a hiring committee. Nonprofits are looking to hire someone who is committed to benefiting their financial goals.
If you are interviewing for major donor fundraising jobs, it is good to research the organization, look at its current strategy, and plan a change. Taking it upon yourself to be able to explain to a hiring committee the exact steps you would take to increase donations is impressive. Ensuring you use industry-relevant language in your interview can also demonstrate that you have a good handle on the role.
If you are looking to jump into professional fundraising, there are several courses that could help you gain the hands-on skills that may help boost your resume to the top of the pile. Many consultants online provide extensive free content that could help you prepare for the role. Investigate as well whether the nonprofits you are applying to invest in fundraising jobs training.
Ultimately, hands-on experience and a proven track record of success are the true ways to wow your interviewers, so do what you can to prepare before you start job searching. Organizations cannot afford to make a hiring mistake for a position such as this, so educating yourself and proving that you are the right person for the job is vital.
Major donor fundraising jobs can be rewarding career paths. Being responsible for the future outlook of an organization is an important role and must be taken seriously. Utilizing various skills, from analyzing, marketing, budgeting, and relationship building, is necessary, providing a well-rounded work experience and also helping you avoid job burnout. This is a role that requires a dynamic personality and skillset, as the work and people you interact with change daily.