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A Job Hunter Gets Advice on Landing Her First Job in Philanthropy

Written by: Cody Switzer
Published on: Feb 5, 2020

Elena Fracchia admits she is on an unusual job hunt.

She graduated in June with a master’s degree in public administration and a graduate certificate in nonprofit management from the University of Oregon, with hopes of finding work as a grant maker.

But in informational interviews this past spring, she discovered that many grant makers fell gradually into their roles. What’s more, many of the foundation job listings she found asked for 10 or more years of experience.

This wasn’t an easy path for someone in her late 20s. So to find advice for breaking in to philanthropy, Ms. Fracchia turned to The Chronicle’s LinkedIn group.

“What skills would be helpful for me to cultivate now for a future career in the field?” she asked in a posting.

Grant makers, fund raisers, consultants, and others were happy to share their advice on how to break in to the field. And the advice has quickly been put to use. Ms. Fracchia recently got interviews at two foundations.

What follows are some of the recommendations she received.

Ann Rosenfield, executive director of the WoodGreen Foundation at WoodGreen Community Services: “You are probably working at a job to help pay the bills. Find out if they have an employee-engagement committee that helps give out the gifts for the company and get on that committee. If they don’t have criteria for giving, offer to develop it.”

Richard Marker, senior fellow and founder of New York University’s Academy for Grantmaking and Funder Education: “Public charities which look for outside, and particularly younger, volunteers to sit on grant-making committees are a good way to get experience. It will show you something about what the work of giving money away is—and isn’t.”

Amanda Broughton, fund-raising coordinator at Save Animals From Exploitation, in New Zealand: “I got my job through volunteering for the charity I now work for. They get to know you, see your passion for the cause, and it is great for networking. Volunteering your time, if only a little bit, will get you a long way.”

William Campbell, director of workplace giving at Habitat for Humanity International: “If you have an area of impact you would like to focus on, I would try to get a job with a nonprofit that specializes in that area. Knowledge about projects the foundation you want to work for would like to fund will not hurt.”

Connie Harris, fund-raising executive: “One place to volunteer would be your own alma mater’s development or alumni-relations office. You will receive training and exposure to the higher education side of fund raising. Contacting the university’s grant writer might also be a good venue for seeking some insights as well.”

Edwin Crane, fund-raising consultant: “Contact the closest couple of community foundations and ask to interview the chief executive or a program officer ‘to get advice on your career,’ and be prepared to take an entry-level position."

Do you have a question about the philanthropic world? Do you have advice to share with others? Join the conversation in The Chronicle’s LinkedIn group.