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My Accidental – Yet Meaningful – Career as a Fundraiser in Higher Education

Chelsea Haight ’13
Chelsea Haight ’13

My career in philanthropy was accidental, albeit remarkably aligned with my personal values as the recipient of a significant scholarship at Hamilton.

I fell into advancement, as most fundraisers do. After failing to secure funding to supplement an unpaid internship in Chicago, I accepted a nannying gig the summer before my senior year (made possible by the generosity of Hamilton trustee Greg Hoogkamp ’82). Returning to campus that fall, I panicked comparing resumes with friends who interned in finance, advertising, real estate, etc. and had received full-time offers or the insight toward a more focused job hunt. As a work study student, I held a job in Hamilton’s Communication and Development department and creatively leveraged this experience while applying for jobs. In a twist of fate, my struggle to obtain financial assistance became the best accident for my career as it allowed me to accept a more prominent internship. After graduation, I accepted a position in Hampshire College’s Annual Fund. Soon after, I was encouraged to apply for a development officer role in major giving at Amherst College, and subsequently worked there for six and a half  years. I am now with The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and serve as their regional development director on the West Coast.

In each of these roles, my primary responsibility has been raising leadership support for the institution. I serve as a conduit between a donor’s philanthropic interests and the priorities of the organization. I am proud to have facilitated the establishment of numerous endowed funds in support of scholarships, professorships, and career advising programs. A key aspect of my career has been the ability to build relationships with alumni who have the capacity and inclination to explore greater investment. It is a privilege to personally know the extraordinary individuals behind these commitments, and even more gratifying to consider the impact these gifts will have on the lives of future students.

While the resume I drafted my senior fall seemed lackluster at the time, it ultimately narrowed my options and helped me pursue what I truly love – people. Reflecting on the happiness and success in my career today, this realization would have saved me a lot of stress early on! My work day to day is deeply personal and I am honored to fundraise for a sector that I believe in. Attending Hamilton was life-changing, and it would not have been possible without the generosity of donors before me.

To today’s Hamiltonians: Don’t hit the panic button when you think everyone is heading to finance and you’ll be left in the dust. Be mindful of your own interests and what you gravitate toward. The rest will fall into place. My parting thoughts:

  1. There are scholarships and programs at Hamilton to help you succeed. Seek them out. 
  2. Visit the Career Center as early and often as you can. 
  3. Be resilient, humble and someone others can rely on. 
  4. Find your own way to meaningful work. It matters.
  5. Support Hamilton College as an alum – future students on The Hill need you!
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