Go Where the Market Takes You…And Bring Your Passion With You

Written by Bre Swims

When I graduated with my master’s degree from the University of Alabama this past May, I was determined to join the nonprofit sector and find a position focusing on women’s issues. Not only do I have an advanced degree in this field, but I also have internship experience at a well-known women’s nonprofit. When I set out on my job search, I knew it would be difficult, but I was optimistic.

As I reviewed  available fellowships and positions at nonprofits for which I wanted to work, I was disheartened to learn that I did not have the experience necessary for my desired jobs; I wanted to work in communications or policy research. More often than not, I applied anyway, but I almost never heard back. Still, I searched on a daily basis for potential jobs. After a few weeks, I noticed that almost every nonprofit had a position open for a fundraiser or grant writer. I thought to myself, this is obviously a desired skill, but how do I obtain it? I knew that if I could somehow gain experience in nonprofit fundraising, I would be more marketable as an employee in the future.

I learned about the Outreach and Engagement fellowship with Spark Point Fundraising through WINlist, an online listserv for women in the DC area. The position was ideal for me because I have the social media experience and research skills required; better yet, I would get experience with fundraising! After interviewing with Spark Point’s founder, Whitney Brimfield, I knew that working for her would be a great way to build skills and experience in fundraising. I got the job! I’ve been working with Spark Point  since mid-July.

The point of this post is not to give advice about job hunting or lament the stress of post-grad life. It is, however, an anecdote to encourage those who have a vision for their career but are just starting out. When I graduated, I did not think I would end up working for a fundraising firm. I was certain I would enter women’s rights work right away, getting paid to rally at the Supreme Court or organize volunteers. I would still love to do those things at some point in my career, but for now, I am happy to discover this aspect of the nonprofit sector.    

At times, social movements can make you feel that if you are not marching in the streets holding signs, you are not contributing. However, by researching funding prospects for nonprofits, I know that I am playing an important role. Better yet, this position is helping me achieve my goals of working with nonprofits, learning the ropes of the fundraising world, and becoming a more well-rounded and hirable employee.

I saw a gap in the market, and although it was not my original plan, I moved toward that gap with the hope of becoming a more dynamic agent of social change. I have not lost my passion for women’s issues; in fact, I believe it is becoming stronger because I am appreciating its value in a new setting. So, for anyone struggling as I did, I would offer this: go where the market takes you, and bring your passion with you! I hope to see you there.

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