Advice for Advancement Leaders Who Lack Fundraising Experience


Under pressure to close funding gaps through bigger and broader donor campaigns, colleges and universities often lean toward hiring advancement leaders with resumes that include proven fundraising success. In fact, a candidate’s fundraising experience can now matter most to many hiring committees.

Mercedes Chacon Vance, who leads Witt/Kieffer’s higher education advancement team, acknowledges the frustration this creates for many alumni relations and other professionals looking to advance their careers but who do not have significant fundraising backgrounds. In a recent CASE Currents article, Are You an Advancement VP of a Different Stripe?, Vance shared, “I know it’s frustrating. I feel for them. Most alumni relations professionals do not have the portfolio or major gift prospects that will propel a board or president to take a risk.”

Mercedes Chacon Vance

In this environment where many candidates compete for a limited number of VP of Advancement and other top advancement positions, is it possible to move up the ranks without fundraising experience? Vance and other experts believe it is, with the right positioning and preparation. They offer several ideas for aspiring advancement leaders, including:

  • Focus on the value of your transferable skills, not what’s lacking on your resume.
  • Seek out opportunities to prove your fundraising ability in your current position before you compete for a leadership position.
  • Consider taking a lateral move to gain the experience you need in order to move up.

The full article, Are You an Advancement VP of a Different Stripe?, is available from

By the Witt & Wisdom Team

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