Being a face-to-face fundraiser teaches you a lot of things – working as part of a team, setting and meeting targets, and how to develop the confidence to walk up to complete strangers and ask them to donate money to charity.
But it can also teach you about a love for fundraising you didn’t know you had. And maybe even inspire a long-term career in the non-profit industry.
Starting out as a street Fundraiser
Alisha Tharani, a Political Science and Equity Studies grad from the University of Toronto, worked as a Fundraiser and Administrative Co-ordinator with face-to-face fundraising agency Public Outreach from April 2010 through June 2012, during which time she completed her MA in Political Science at York University.
However, Alisha’s initial foray into a career in non-profit fundraising comes as a bit of a surprise, even to her. She learned about the street fundraiser position at a recruitment fair, and applied because she thought it sounded interesting.
“As a new grad, it just seemed like a job I was able to get,” she says. “I didn’t initially think I would want to be a Fundraiser, but because of the charities they represented, I was intrigued. I realized it would be a great way to connect with organizations that I cared about. But I never thought fundraising would be where I started my career.”
Soon, she was out on the streets chatting up passersby and securing donations for very worthy non-profit organizations. She says overcoming her shyness was the biggest challenge she faced, but it wasn’t long before she got over it. She says one of the best parts of the job is connecting with people and getting them on board with causes that you are passionate about.
A professional Fundraiser is born
As Alisha’s love for the job started to grow, so did her knowledge about the world of fundraising.
“My fundraising manager taught me to always remember that you’re talking to real human beings who probably respond to things the same way you do,” she says. “It can be really easy to slip into a sales pitch and sound robotic because you’re trying to give as much information as possible to the person, but you have to stay away from that. Your job is to connect with people and serve as a catalyst for them to do something.”
That, coupled with the technical knowledge she was gaining on the job – terminology such as PAC (pre-Public Outreach, Alisha knew that she wanted to work directly with an organization and dedicate herself to one cause she really cared about and believed in.contribution) and OTG (one-time gift), and the ins and outs of the industry – made her comfortable with pursuing a career in fundraising. And though she loved working with
That organization turned out to be Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), one of the world’s leading independent international medical relief organizations that is working in more than 60 countries worldwide. Alisha was able to strengthen her knowledge of MSF while fundraising for them with Public Outreach and ultimately used her fundraising experience to land a job there.
She now works as a Planned Giving Co-ordinator for MSF Canada in Toronto and says she plans to stay with them for a long time to come.
“Working with Public Outreach teaches you a lot of skills. You’re able to talk to people and connect them to charities they care about,” Alisha says. “My experience with Public Outreach was definitely something I leaned on. My last three jobs were with Public Outreach and having fundraised for different charities directly definitely made a difference.”
The beginning of a rewarding non-profit career
As a Planned Giving Co-ordinator for MSF Canada, Alisha is now working with the Principal Gifts Team to manage donations left to the organization through peoples’ wills. While many elements in her new position are the same as in her past roles at Public Outreach, it’s a different kind of fundraising that has further sparked her passion for the industry.
Championing a cause she cares about every day makes her happy to come to work in the morning – how many people can say that?