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Neil Davidson: Fundraising Professional

By Prescott Loveland
Future Leaders in Philanthropy

Neil Davidson is headed back to school (MBA program at Harvard) after four years in the world of fundraising. I asked him to jot down some notes about his experience before the next phase of his life unfolds.

  • There are big differences between types of fundraising. Learn about those differences and try to figure out which is right for you before taking your first job.
  • You should derive a sense of meaning from your job. It's great if you support the mission of the organization for which you'll be raising money, but you should recognize that you'll only be happy in your job if you like your work day in, day out.
  • When considering a job in fundraising, ask yourself "Would I want my new boss's job?" or "Would I want his boss's job?", not "Do I want this job?" Think long term when career planning.
  • If you're more interested in being successful as a fundraiser than in supporting any one particular sector, do some research into what philanthropic areas are "hot" and go to work in one of them.
  • Fundraising is a support role, like accounting. Make sure you're comfortable with that kind of role. You won't be (at least, you shouldn't be) steering your organization or its programs. The relationships you make with program staff within your organization are as important as the relationships you make with funders, so spend plenty of time with your colleagues.

The Future Leaders in Philanthropy (FLiP) site is a special project of The site was founded with two main goals. First, to seek out and encourage college students to enter into a career in the philanthropic sector, and also to provide education, guidance, and networking for young professionals who are new to the sector. The community of readers includes students and young professionals at non-profit organizations, corporate foundations, universities, and for-profit companies.

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