• Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE

You Mean People Get Paid to Ask for Money?

Updated: Aug 24, 2019

Let me tell you about how I entered the profession of fundraising; it may be a familiar story to some of you. Back in the 1970s, probably before some of you were even born, I was a banker. Most banks, partly because of the Community Reinvestment Act and partly because they wanted to be good corporate citizens, encouraged their employees to be active volunteers in their communities. Like many other bank employees, I eagerly volunteered for numerous fundraising activities including working on my alma mater’s annual business appeal. This was the first time I realized that there was actually a profession of fundraising; that people got paid to ask for money! Gee, I had been doing it as a volunteer for many years and loved the feeling of satisfaction that came with obtaining a commitment for a gift to the annual appeal, working on a successful fundraising event, talking to a group of business colleagues about the great work a nonprofit was doing in our community. Wow, I could get paid to do this???!!! How hard could this be if volunteers could do it?

Then one day I opened my file drawer at work to look for a file for a project I was working on for the bank and realized that there were more files in my drawer for my volunteer nonprofit activities than there were for work projects. Perhaps it was time for a career change! Before I knew it, I found myself as Assistant Vice President for Institutional Advancement at my alma mater. I quickly found out there was lot more to fundraising than I had imagined. Not long after starting my new career I attended a CASE (Council for the Advancement and Support of Education) conference and had to quickly learn terms with which I was not familiar—LYBUNTS, SYBUNTS, fulfillment rates, nonprofit bulk rate indicia, planned giving, and many more. What had I gotten myself into?

One thing that immediately struck me, when I announced to friends and coworkers that I was leaving the bank to become a member of the nonprofit fundraising community, was their question, “Why would you leave a career in banking and take a pay cut?” (Actually, I was getting a healthy increase in my salary. But it helped me realize that most people tend to think nonprofit employees receive and probably deserve a much lower salary than other professionals. After all, they are working for a nonprofit—doesn't that mean that the organization is poor? Wrong!

In this series of blogs, I will deal with some of the things that face new fundraisers, and even ones who have been in their jobs for a longer time. Such as: what is a fair salary to expect what skills and talents does a fundraiser need, how to select the right organization for which to work. what are the opportunities for advancement in this profession, and when is it time to move on. So, stay tuned to learn more.

P.S.—if you’re hiring your fist (or your thirtieth) fundraiser, there will be some good info for you as well.

See my book Fundraising as a Career: What, Are You Crazy at


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