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Case Study: Allison Wortley

Personal details
Degree:Master of Arts (Joint), Art History and Management Profile picture
School(s): School of Art History, School of Management
Year of Graduation:Jun-2015
National of: United States of America
Employment details
Organisation: University of Pennsylvania
Job title: Assistant Director
Occupational Sector: Fundraising
What has been your route to getting your current position?
Prior to graduation I spent two summer breaks interning at various arts organizations in the greater Philadelphia area, namely the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) at the University of Pennsylvania. Upon graduation I reached out to my former supervisor at the ICA for a recommendation but instead received an offer for a part-time three month position in the summer of 2015 in their Development Office. While in this position I realized I wanted to continue working at the University of Pennsylvania to help assist in paying for a masters degree. When this position ended I found a full-time job at The Penn Fund, the university's undergraduate unrestricted annual giving fund. I have now been here for three years and held two different positions. I do not want to stay in higher education fundraising for forever but know that I am learning a lot that I can take to future organizations. My desire is to make the transition back to arts organizations and work in either events/programming within the Development Office.
What does your job involve ?
I plan and implement a multi-faceted strategic annual giving plan to raise funds from graduation seniors at the University of Pennsylvania. Throughout the year I plan a number of events ranging in size and objective, from cultivation and solicitation of donations to stewardship of gifts, I solicit leadership level gifts and manage a group of 30 graduating seniors who are on the ground asking for donations. I work on the Young Alumni team so some other priorities include planning events for pre-5th reunion graduates.
What are the best bits of your job ?
By far the best part of my job is seeing how incredible the students are; we raise funds for financial aid for undergraduate students so they can attend Penn and I get to see first hand the opportunities they are taking advantage of while on campus.
Why were you successful?
I think I was successful because I identified that I needed to grow other skills prior to being in the field I want to work in for forever. I was having a hard time finding employment at arts organizations in development so by pivoting into higher education, I am able to build base line skills that I can transfer later on. Sometimes it is important to take a different job that you know will help in the long run.
What skills/ knowledge from your degree have you found particularly helpful in this role?
At the moment I would say that the Management aspect of my degree is playing a larger role than my History of Art degree. That being said, as I mentioned earlier, I plan to transition back into the arts in the next year or so which will change things. It is important when working with donors at art institutions that you can speak to the work currently being exhibited, which comes from this degree. I am able to talk more in depth about various time periods of art history, pulling knowledge from various courses as well as theories that can be applied to contemporary art today.
What advice would you give to students wishing to follow the same path?
Get involved early. One of the best ways to begin working in the nonprofit space is to start as a volunteer. When organizations see that you have been committed as a volunteer and doing well, any possible applications you submit for employment will be taken much more seriously.