The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently ran an article discussing the pros and cons of working for a large nonprofit vs. a small nonprofit. The article was particularly focused on the career of the development professional and asked which career path was the best choice for a young fundraiser. I read the article with interest as over the past twenty years, I’ve worked with both large nonprofits (i.e. colleges and hospitals), and with very small “start-up” nonprofits (some didn’t even have any full time staff!).
My advice to young development folks is to start your career with a small nonprofit. This will give you opportunities to learn all about fundraising. You’ll be responsible for events, direct mail, social media outreach, donor cultivation, direct asking, gift acknowledgement, and many other tasks.
Make no mistake, it will be tiring and frustrating at times (and usually the pay isn’t very good)…but in the end, it will build a greater skill set that will help you further your career as you inevitably end up working for larger organizations later in life.
So if you’re just starting out in fundraising, go small. Invest a few years when you’re young learning the ropes and making mistakes. Down the line, you’ll find that you’re better prepared than many of your peers when you finally interview for the better paying job at the larger institution.