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Four things to know if you want to work in fundraising in Canada

Four things to know if you want to work in fundraising in Canada

O, Canada! Back in 2008 I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to make Canada my home and native land after my husband got offered a transfer.

Transplanting from the UK (Birmingham, to be precise) to Vancouver, British Columbia, would be a fairly easy transition I thought. I’m British. It’s called British Columbia—sorted! It didn’t go quite that smoothly, but I was fortunate enough to land a position at a charity and never looked back.

Twelve years on (and another move, this time to Toronto, Ontario), I am now a proud citizen and have never once regretted the decision to move, as hard as it was to leave family and Gregg’s sausage rolls behind. The ‘B’ word (no, not Boris–although that works, too) has caused and continues to cause so much uncertainty and stress. Depending on your situation, now may be a good time to consider moving to more stable climates.

For those of you thinking about making the leap to Canadian shores, here are four things to know to help you in your Canadian fundraising journey.


1. Canadianize your CV!

First you need to get used to the term ‘resume.’ ‘Curriculum vitae’ is not a term generally used in Canada. While the format is similar, there are key differences to be aware of:

Spelling – Labour or Labor? Program or Programme? There are some noticeable differences in the way the UK and Canada spell words (organisation versus organization, for example). Use the Canadian spelling and remember Canadian
spellings can differ from those used in the USA. If in doubt, check.

Length – A resume typically is one to two pages in length and should focus on those jobs that are relevant to where you are applying.

Understandability – Well clearly you know the organizations listed on your resume, but will Canadians? Including a one sentence description of their mission/reason for existing can help others quickly grasp what the org does and the relevance to your application.

Google ‘Canadian resume writing examples’ for further tips and recommendations.


2. Network, network, network!

This one was far easier in pre-COVID days. Networking with other fundraisers is a proven way to learn more about the charitable landscape and create contacts for job opportunities.

The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) is a respected organization to become a member of and they host regular events for members to get together, virtually now of course. The Board of Trade in the city where you make your home is also a useful resource for networking events. They’ll give you the opportunity to mix with people in the for-profit sector, too.

Use sites such as Evenbrite to find other local events, many of which are free to attend. Plus sites such as can help you find mentors, job opportunities and more!


3. Volunteer

I know, I know. You want to be paid for your hard work, not give it away for free! But as a newcomer with zero Canadian work experience and no contacts in the field, it can be challenging to get your foot in the door.

An effective avenue to get that all important experience on your resume is to volunteer. There are a multitude of opportunities in Canada. Giving back to the community is well regarded and valued in Canada. It is even imbedded into the education system with high school students required to complete mandatory volunteer hours.

Volunteering also helps you to learn more about Canadian culture and learn to work with diverse groups of people. Check out the Volunteer Canada website for a list of openings in your region.


4. Get your CFRE certification!

The Certified Fund Raising Executive, CFRE, certification is widely respected in Canada and indeed is the international standard for best practices in ethical fundraising.

You will see many, many job descriptions for fundraisers with the following caveat listed in the Skills and Qualifications needed: ‘CFRE certification will be considered an asset.’ Obtaining your CFRE gives you credibility as a fundraiser and shows potential employers you are serious about your fundraising career and have gained knowledge and experience in the field. It will give you an edge over fundraisers who don’t have their CFRE, especially when applying for jobs at larger organizations, such as hospitals or universities.

Full disclosure, I might be a bit biased as after obtaining my CFRE in February 2020. I became a Toronto-area CFRE Ambassador and I love it! The CFRE has an active online community and after you begin your application you automatically gain access to CFRE Central, the international online community, where you can ask questions, get advice and read resources posted by others on topics ranging from taking the CFRE exam to tips on fundraising strategies and more.


Make it happen

Whether you’re fully ready to make the leap across the pond or just casually researching, I hope these tips have helped you gain a better view of how to secure a fundraising role in the Great White North.


By Carrie-Ann Goodfellow, CFRE, is currently the Manager of Development at Youth Employment Services YES, based out of Toronto.


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