Fundraisers are the behind-the-scene stars at wildlife centers and zoological parks. Without them, zoos and wildlife centers just wouldn't exist. Most institutions hire fundraisers to write grants, pitch letters to their membership, and organize a host of events and galas to raise money. The fundraiser's role has grown because part of the job is to promote the names of the donors.
Most donors, except for those few who want to remain anonymous, are treated as celebrities. Just walk through most zoos and wildlife centers and you will see signs highlighting the names of the donors on each exhibit. Donor names are often as large as the name of the exhibit. Some even have information about the individual donor or company posted next to the exhibit. In many cases, fundraisers who write grants stipulate that the donor's name and company information will be publicized.
Even with promises of recognition for the donors, writing grants is a tough business. The competition is fierce. Every institution feels it is worthy of receiving funds. Fundraisers, also called development officers, must feel good about the organization and projects that they are promoting.
Many people are in awe of those who ask others to donate money. It's not uncommon to hear, “I could never ask for money.” That is just a portion of the job, but an important one. Developing ongoing relationships with donors is essential in this business. If asking for money is difficult for you, consider going into another field.
Depending on the size of the institution, some companies hire a development director, who often reports to the executive director, while the development director oversees the work of the assistant development director, grant writer, and an assistant. Development staffs are often small. Some can be one person who does it all — even the publicity and marketing.
The median salary for development directors is $78,000. Development directors or fundraisers must have a bachelor's degree in communications, public relations, marketing, business, or finance. You must possess excellent writing and speaking skills. It also helps to join a professional organization such as the Association of Fundraising Professionals.