Listen to the interview (approx. 1 hr, 9 min.) or download it.
Graduated in 2008 with a major in Professional Music. Principal instrument: flute.
Position: Associate Director of Development (front-line fundraising) at Colorado State University’s Engineering College. Mary works very autonomously, data-mining for good prospective donors, setting up meetings, traveling and meeting them, and following-up. She also helps with some events. It’s a salaried position, which is the norm for non-profits, but she has to hit certain metrics in terms of both meetings and money brought in.
Overview: While a student at Berklee, Mary write a paper for a Music Business class profiling financially successful symphonies, including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which was published in Berklee’s Music Business journal and then republished in a Music Trade publication. She also got some fundraising interhships during the summer in Colorado, and worked in Berklee’s development (fundraising) office. That experience got her a telefundraising jobs at the BSO about six months after graduation (where she no longer had to “do the coffee shop thing”) where she worked for 9 months. She did well, but missed Colorado, so moved back home. After a while, she applied and got a position doing fundraising work for a small music school, but that place wasn’t doing well financially, so a year later she was looking for a new position. Mary felt that it made sense not to pigeonhole herself as an arts-and-music fundraiser, so applied more broadly and got a fundraising job with the United Way in early 2011.
Within 6 months it was clear that she didn’t want a career at the United Way, so Mary started systematically building her network–actively pursuing meetings and informational interviews. About a year later, a recruiter reached out to her that she was recommended for a fundraising job at the University of Colorado to support their music school and arts programs. A major bump in salary and impact, Mary had four great years there, though there was a lot of turnover and after 4 years she decided to leave and reevaluate whether she really wanted this as a career, working as a fundraising consultant in the interim. She decided that this was what she wanted, and also wanted to stay in Colorado. Hearding good things about Colorado State University, she reached out to them and met with someone who subsequently informed her about new positions and who to meet with before any job interview happened. This led to her getting her current position when it opened up in early 2018.
You can see Mary’s LinedIn profile here.
Choice Quotes: “As a musician, I really enjoyed playing music with an interacting with other people. It carries over in fundraising. There’s a bit of direct crossover–a lot of the engineers I’m meeting were in marching band or have other music talent. That shared interest in music works to my advantage quite often.”
“When I work with someone to set up a scholarship endowment, a student recipient writes a letter to the donors–I keep a couple of copies of these heartwarming letters in my office. They’re really rewarding and remind me how important my job is. Often this scholarship makes the difference in letting them go to college.”
“My education at Berklee and experience as a musician taught me the value of listening, how to collaborate and negotiate with people.”
“I still play my flute, which I really enjoy. Usually I’ll just put on some music and play along. I’ve met so many people who say they used to play. I encourage people to get back on the horse. Music is a wonderful part of my life!”
“I encourage people to think about what they’re worth. Early on you have a lot of learning to do, but later you get to a point in your career and can point to your successes, there’s room to negotiate. A lot of people, especially women, just accept an offer right away. Don’t do that–thank them and say you’ll look forward to considering their offer over the next couple of days. Think how whether it’s in the salary range. Think if it’s in what you want, or if there are creative ways you can negotiate for more money or other benefits.”
“If you want to be in fundraising, the number one thing is to feel passionate about the mission! Find an organization you really, truly are interested in. You’ll be doing many things in long hours for low pay. But if you’re passionate about the mission, you can walk away thinking you have one of the best jobs in the world. The more you prove you can get visits with people and raise $ the more you will get noticed, promoted, and start to make a good living.”
See the full index of successful Berklee alumni.