Fundraising Careers in the Arts & Culture Sector


Fundraising is becoming pivotal for many organizations, especially in the arts & culture sector. It is therefore very important to understand how fundraising skills and capabilities are developed, by looking at how people enter the profession, what their key skills are, and how they are trained for greater effectiveness.


“Understanding how to make a career and develop fundraising competences in the cultural sector is key, especially due to the public funding cuts that the sector is facing” says Alex Turrini, “Fundraising competences are very peculiar, as they are linked with both the ability to build relationships and interact with donors, and with the planning of successful fundraising campaigns”.


This is why Elena Avidano, one of the Arts & Culture Knowledge Center’s Research Students, conducted a study on this subject under the supervision of Prof. Alex Turrini and Matteo Azzolini, focusing on fundraising executives working in Europe’s largest metropolitan areas. The abstract can be downloaded below


Avidano’s research identified three different trajectories of entry into the field, showing that for 70% of the interviewees working in fundraising arrived in the sector through a voluntary career switch, aimed at pursuing a more meaningful and gratifying position in the charitable sector. Furthermore, the study identified four macro groups of skills which are deemed essential for success in the fundraising profession: relational and interpersonal skills, a passion for the job and for the institution’s mission, eloquence and persuasion, and continuous research - both in the sense of new prospects and opportunities and of continuous training to keep up with the appetite and trends of the sector, which evolves very rapidly.


In terms of the training of skills and knowledge related to fundraising, the study revealed that generally Fundraising Managers and Development Directors lack awareness about the university programs focusing on fundraising. Also, while some of the interviewees saw formal training as helpful in building effective and successful fundraising teams, others reckoned that successful fundraisers need a natural predisposition for the profession, and that the aforementioned qualities can only be acquired over time and through experience.


“It would be of utter importance to establish a "fundraising culture" within organizational environments” states Elena Avidano, “This would be intended as a shared organizational competence where fundraising is practiced as a legitimate and strategic type of practice, contributing to the promotion of a high level of professionalism in fundraising”.


>>Download the Executive Summary: FUNDRAISING CAREERS IN THE ARTS & CULTURE SECTOR . An analysis of the career paths, training programs, skills and competencies for the fundraising profession.



SDA Bocconi School of Management

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