How to Become a Development Associate


If you’re skilled in marketing and communications, and you’re interested in non-profit work, then becoming a development associate may be a good career option for you! Here are some quick highlights of working in this field:


• Excellent opportunities for career advancement

• Very good level of pay

• An opportunity to apply your marketing and communications skills

• An opportunity to motivate, persuade and inspire people


If you want to know more about the ins and outs of this career, then read on; we’ll fill you in on the details, including an overview of what you would be doing, how much you could earn, and what you’ll need to break into this field!



Required Education

Some employers prefer candidates with bachelor’s degrees in fields that are relevant to the work, such as public relations, communications, or marketing.


Degrees in other subjects may also be acceptable, although your resume will have to reflect that you have the skill set or experience to perform your duties with competence.


Some employers may not require that you have a degree at all, provided you have extensive experience. 


Success Tip: Ideally, you will have a combination of education and experience, as that will allow you to gain a theoretical background, as well as hands-on experience.





Relevant Experience

Whether or not you have a degree, many employers will hire you if you have extensive paid or volunteer experience in similar roles, even if those roles involved less responsibility.


For example, many fundraising campaigns rely on volunteers having face-to-face or over-the-phone interaction with potential donors; having experience interacting with donors would be quite valuable if you are going to organize these campaigns.  


Success Tip: As a student, you can gain experience by volunteering at local charities or participating in student-led organizations!



General Job Description

As a development associate (also known as a ‘fund development associate, or a ‘fundraiser’) you would be responsible for accepting and recording the donations received by a non-profit organization. Generally, you would also perform administrative duties related to assisting the director of development.



Typical Job Duties

Although the specific duties you would perform would vary from job to job, you could expect to be responsible for performing some, or all, of the following duties:


• Receive, record and respond to donations

• Source prospective donors

• Prepare reports on donors

• Maintain calendars of grant progress, due dates and reports

• Assist with the preparation of grant proposals, newsletter and annual reports

• Assist with fundraising events and activities

• Develop and publish website content

• Ensure compliance with regulatory requirements and organizational policies

• Facilitate progress meetings

• Recommend improvements for future fund development activities



Is This Career Right for You?

In order to survive the ups and downs of working as a fund development professional (and enjoy yourself along the way!), you’ll need to have certain professional interests, skills, and personal traits, including:


• Tact when dealing with others

• Enthusiasm, and the ability to work under pressure

• A strong interest in the community and ethical practice

• The ability to lead, manage and work with staff and volunteers

• The ability to motivate, persuade and inspire people

• The ability to plan, organize and implement complex projects

• The ability to network and build relationships

• Take enjoyment in coordinating information

• Take enjoyment from taking a methodical approach to researching information and dealing with people





Areas of Specialization

As a development associate, you can either be a generalist, or you can focus you efforts in certain areas of fund development, including:


• Annual giving

• Capital campaigns

• Direct mail

• Grant research and preparation

• Major gifts

• Planned giving

• Prospect research

• Special events

• Stewardship and recognition



Who Employs Them?

You could potentially be employed by many different types of charitable, not-for-profit and public sector organizations, such as:


• Amateur sports organizations

• Consulting firms (provide fundraising services on a contractual basis)

• Cultural and arts organizations

• Disease related organizations

• Educational institutions

• Health care facilities

• Religious organizations

• Self-employed (providing services on a contractual basis)

• Social service agencies

• Various charities



Average Salary Level in This Profession

Although salaries for fund development associates typically fall within a certain range, there are various factors that will influence your specific earnings, including:


• Your level of education

• Your level of experience

• The size of the organization that employs you

• The industry in which you work

• The region in which you work

• The scope of your job duties


Development Associate Salary - Canada (Alberta figures only): According to the 2013 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey (latest figures available at the time of writing - June 14'19), Albertans working in the Professional Occupations in Public Relations and Communications occupational group earn an average salary of $77,090 per year. Unfortunately, no similar statistics were available from reliable sources for other Canadian provinces or territories. 


Development Associate Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of Americans working in the Fundraisers occupational group is $52,430 per year.



Accreditation and Credentials

Earning Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) credentials can be a great asset in a career as a fund development associate. This certification may or may not be a requirement of employment, depending on whom the employer is or the level of the position.


This accreditation is highly valued by many employers, and although it is not usually a requirement to get an entry-level job, it may be necessary to qualify for senior level positions, especially if it is with a new employer.


In additional to increasing employment prospects, it also has a number of benefits, including:


• Grants you more credibility

• Prepares you for greater on-the-job responsibilities

• Improves skills and knowledge

• May provide for greater earnings potential

• Demonstrates your commitment to the fundraising profession

• Enhances the profession's image

• Reflects achievement

• Builds self-esteem

• Offers greater recognition from peers



Current Job Opportunities

Our job board below has "Development Associate" postings in your area, when available:




Career Advancement Possibilities

Displaying competence and a good work ethic can afford you plenty of career advancement options, including:


• Moving into campaign director or fund development director positions

• Moving into specialized areas, such as annual giving, major gifts, prospect research, or others

• Becoming self-employed as a fund development or administration consultant

• Taking on a similar role in another company

• Moving to a smaller organization that has better opportunities for advancement

• Starting your own non-profit organization



Similar Occupations in Our Database

Listed below are occupations in our database that have similar responsibilities, and/or require similar skills, or be in the same sector of industry, as this one:


Business Development Officer

Event Planner


Marketing Coordinator

Political Campaign Officer

Public Relations Specialist

Sales Representative

Volunteer Coordinator




Please consult the following resources to learn more about the various aspects of this profession.


Occupations in Alberta:Fund Development Professional.” (March 31, 2019). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved November 10, 2019.

Business & Financial:Fundraisers.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved November 10, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming a Development Associate

The 'Applicable Majors' section below shows fields of study relevant to a career as a development associate. You can search for scholarships matched to those fields of study on our All Scholarships by Major page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Applicable Majors

Studying one of the college/university majors listed below can be helpful (or are necessary) for becoming a development associate. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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