Ambitious Public Outreach Fundraiser Reaches Senior-Level Role By Age 23
When Marisa Tran (far right) finished high school, a friend told her about the opportunity to work as a Professional Fundraiser with Public Outreach, an international face-to-face fundraising agency.
“I thought it would be a great summer job to fill the time between high school and university and help me pay tuition,” she says.
As a Fundraiser, she spoke with people on behalf of various non-profit organizations and raised monthly donations for causes such as children’s hospitals, human rights organizations and international development organizations. “I had the most amazing conversations with potential donors on the street or at their door.”
“There are many opportunities to grow into career roles at Public Outreach, but many Fundraisers also use Public Outreach as their stepping stone to start working directly with non-profits.”
—Marisa Tran, Manager of National Recruitment, Public Outreach
It didn’t take long before she realized she could quickly grow her career within Public Outreach, though. “I was 21 years old when I decided to challenge myself in a new way,” she says. “I had been fundraising full-time for three years and, at the time, was managing a fundraising office. An administrative role to assist the recruiter popped up in the office and I applied!”
Now, about three years after she applied for that role, Marisa is Public Outreach’s Manager of National Recruitment and it’s her job to attract new Fundraisers to start their careers with the company. “Public Outreach is the best company for any new grad or student to develop real experience and build on their existing skills to prepare them for the non-profit world.”
However, if your career interests lay elsewhere, she says, you should still consider working at Public Outreach: “Many people at Public Outreach are working toward other careers, such as teaching, engineering and criminal justice, to name a few, and the experience they gain is still just as transferable.”
Keep reading to find out what it’s like to work at Public Outreach, how Marisa advanced her career so quickly and how you can do it too!
Why is it important that Public Outreach staff start as Fundraisers and work their way up, like you did?
Marisa: Almost every person who works at Public Outreach has been a Fundraiser, and the majority of office staff and managers still fundraise on a regular basis! To move up in the company, you must have fundraising experience, passion for the non-profit sector, a drive to help push the company forward, and understand and follow our values: be honest, respectful and effective.
How does Public Outreach support the long-term career goals of its Fundraisers?
Marisa: We understand that not everyone can fundraise as a long-term career. There are many opportunities to grow into career roles at Public Outreach, but many fundraisers also use Public Outreach as their stepping stone to start working directly with non-profits. Many of the non-profits we work with will send us job listings before they look elsewhere because they know we have fundraisers who are passionate about the non-profit sector and fundraising experience looks great on a resume for any non-profit role!
Why have you stayed with Public Outreach for so long?
Marisa: Public Outreach broke every negative expectation I had for my first “real” job, and made me feel like I am important and can tackle the world if I want to. Every person at Public Outreach wants to make a difference in the world and being constantly surrounded by positivity has made me feel so empowered and driven to make the same difference.
Video: Click the image above to find out why Public Outreach Fundraisers love their jobs!
As a Fundraiser, I was directly involved with the organizations I represented. I will never forget watching the beginning of a heart transplant on an eight-year-old girl and being told by one of the nurses that the facility the child was being operated in was built thanks to Public Outreach-raised donations. That was one of the most rewarding moments I’ve had.
But the biggest factor that encouraged me to stick around was the opportunity for growth. I never thought I would manage over 50 staff by the age of 21 or oversee the hiring for 22 offices across North America by the age of 23!
How has Public Outreach changed and grown since you first started?
Marisa: When I started at Public Outreach in 2006, we had three offices in Canada. Now we have 18 offices across the country in nine different cities, 11 offices in the U.S. and four offices in Australia! Public Outreach has grown in size, but the small-team feeling is the same.
Also, we now have trips for fundraisers to go to Australia – all expenses paid – and fundraise for three months. Last year, we had fundraisers travel to Nicaragua to do community building with an international development organization!
What has been your most memorable experience at Public Outreach so far?
Marisa: Every day is memorable at Public Outreach. As a fundraiser, my most memorable day was fundraising for a cancer-related organization at Queen and John streets in downtown Toronto: a donor approached me with a dry attitude and said, “Whatever it is you’re doing, I’ll do it.”
I tried to explain that I was fundraising for monthly donations, but he didn’t want to hear it. He told me he wanted the form and would sign it right there – his wife had just died of cancer two weeks before. I gave him as much information as possible on both individual and group counseling, and other programs that were free for him and his three children to use.
Six months later, I was fundraising door-to-door and I happened to knock on his door. He recognized me and invited me in for dinner. I met his children; he showed me the family photo of his wife and kids, and explained to me how the programs I referred him to changed his life and helped his family find closure and the strength to move forward.
What’s your advice for students and recent grads who are interested in careers in the non-profit industry?
Marisa: Start off slow. No matter what role you want to do in the non-profit industry, show that you are interested by doing volunteer work, internships, entry-level fundraising roles, and participating in events. Become a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals if you want a career in fundraising. And market yourself through social media: every non-profit is becoming more and more involved in social media, but tons of charities do not know how to use it correctly.