Natalie Le '13

Philosophy and mathematics double major Natalie Le '13 uses the skills she learned at the College of Charleston, specifically her philosophy classes, and puts them to work as a development associate at Independent Women Forum and Independent Women’s Voice in Washington, DC. Learn how. 

Why did you decide to attend the College of Charleston and pursue a philosophy degree?

I attended the College because I was really impressed by its academic reputation and its community of passionate students and top-notch faculty. I was grateful to receive scholarships and grants that covered the cost of my education, and I had no reason to think of another school where I could better spend my college years. At the College, I chose to pursue a philosophy degree because of my interest in symbolic logic (very masochistic, I know), but after taking several philosophy courses, I developed a penchant for John Locke’s and John Rawls’ work, and strangely enough, I found myself studying Ayn Rand’s philosophy - objectivism -  which serves as a foundation for what I’m doing now.

leWhat is your current job title and how would you describe your responsibilities? 

I’m a development associate for Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) and their sister nonprofit Independent Women’s Voice (IWV). IWF educates the public, especially women, on the principles of limited government and economic freedom through media, commentary, and events, whereas IWV achieves those principles by supporting policy and political campaigns. I assist both IWF and IWV’s fundraising departments by maintaining their customer relationship management (CRM) databases and making sure that our gift officers are constantly reaching out to donors, prospects, and foundations; it’s so important to cultivate relationships with our constituents as their support is vital to the various projects that we carry out.

What is your typical day at work?

A typical day for me is attending development conference calls, creating complex queries, and producing reports in our CRM database that tracks how much funding we’ve accrued so far and which constituents need a follow up from our major gift officers. We also discuss possible campaigns and strategies that we could implement to raise more money for fundraising projects. I research potential donors’ giving history, in other words, how much they have given to other individuals and organizations, and determine how much we should ask for based on their past giving and current capacity. I also answer inquiries that we receive in response to our newsletters.

How did your degree help prepare you in your current role? Any specific College experiences stand out as having prepared you (e.g., internship or student abroad opportunities)?

My philosophy degree helped me to harness my communication and writing skills, which are essential for interacting with donors, foundations, and businesses. One must make a compelling argument as to why one should contribute to your organization! And what stood out to me during my time at the College was my involvement with the Political Economy Club and the seminars and events that Dr. Jennifer Baker and Dr. Peter Calcagno recommended me to attend based on my interests in philosophy, economics, and politics. Those experiences shaped my belief system and honed my understanding of classical liberalism. If it were not for my involvement in extracurricular activities and my mentors, I probably would not have secured my job with IWF and IWV.

What advice would you offer students interested in pursuing a career similar to yours?

At the time when I was a college student, I didn’t know jobs like mine existed, and if I had known, I would have interned in development so that I would be better prepared for my job. Many don’t realize how fast-paced fundraising is, since soliciting is behind the scenes, so I would recommend doing a development internship to see if this is something you’re actually interested in and want to pursue as a career. And there’s always something for everyone in fundraising (i.e., major gifts officer, grant writer, and database manager). If you like meeting new people and are a great listener, you should consider being a gifts officer, but if you like to do things more behind the scenes, then consider becoming a grant writer or a database manager.

Anything else you’d like to add?

There are plenty of job opportunities in fundraising because, well, not many people know that these kinds of jobs exist. Fundraising is the heart of every non-profit, and without money, these organizations can’t survive. The amazing work that IWF and IWV have done are made possible because of development, and it’s rewarding to witness how our organization was able to accomplish so much because of the money we’ve raised for these projects.