I once was not even remotely considered as a candidate for a fund-raising position with a hospital. Even though my fund-raising credentials were strong, and I came well recommended, I lacked one crucial aspect the hospital wanted. I did not even get an interview because the hospital's call for resumes required that anyone applying for the job have at least five years experience in the "medical sector."

That hospital made a mistake too many organizations make too often. It assumed that previous knowledge of and experience in the field of expertise in which it operates, were of preeminent importance for someone to be a successful development officer for them.

Later, I was hired by The Cleveland Orchestra as its development director.

Good thing the Orchestra didn't have similar experience requirements to the hospital because I didn't know one note of music from another and had been in a concert hall only twice in my life. Twenty years later as I was completing my last day at the Orchestra, I still did not know one note of music from another. Nothing to brag about to be sure, but I do take pride in two decades of successful fund-raising in the "musical sector." 

I did not need a background in arts and culture to understand and believe in the Orchestra's mission. When it came to fund-raising, the Orchestra's management was far more enlightened than that hospital's had been. It made no difference at all to the Orchestra where I came from. They wanted someone with the knowledge and ability to carry out the fund-raising process. And let's face it fund-raising is basically the same process no matter what the field.

Anyone having fund-raising experience, knows well that the only real difference affecting fund-raising practices for social service, arts and culture, educational, religious, and health-related organizations is their financial support constituencies. We know that the concepts of fund-raising can and do apply across the board.

Just look at the thousands of books on fund-raising or note the countless presentations of fund-raising workshops and seminars, and you'll see they overwhelmingly appeal to the broad spectrum of non-profit organizations. Often when non-profit fund-raising issues are discussed in blogs, the participants have no knowledge of the types of organizations being discussed. They just want to know how to raise needed funds.

Most any successful fund-raising campaign for any type of organization is a straightforward, concise process of executing well defined components arranged in a step-by-step progression.  I know this because I have seen it done over and over again and have worked with a large variety of organizations.

After twenty years in the "musical sector," my first few consulting engagements included a Vietnam veterans memorial, a community hospital, a therapeutic riding center, and a retirement/nursing home. I think that's a pretty clear demonstration that the fund-raising process is basically the same for any cause.

Fund-raising challenges and issues require parallel processes whether you're seeking to raise money for a ballet company production, academic scholarships,  a hospital's new MRI, or new church pews. No matter the particular cause money is raised from people who:

  • Have it
  • Can afford to give
  • Are sold on the benefit of what will be done with that money
  • Wouldn't have given it unless asked
  • Receive appreciation and respect for their gifts

So when you're looking for work as a development officer and you come across an organization that puts expertise in their field of endeavor over expertise in fund-raising, your first job is to get them to understand that what they need to hire is the best fund-raiser they can find.