Jonah Cardillo says that he’s grateful for his new role as the director of institutional gifts at St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children; it’s “something that offers me a sense of purpose every day,” he says. He adds, “Without the fundraising program, I wouldn't have found this position.”
He’s talking about the M.S. in Nonprofit Management [formerly Fundraising Management] program, a part-time or full-time master’s degree program at Columbia that gives students an overview of the industry and a thorough analysis of major gift solicitation, the annual campaign, and planned giving.
Cardillo, who had previously worked in program management and events planning at Columbia, says that the rigor of the Fundraising Management curriculum and the dedication of his instructors helped train him, connect him with opportunities, and advance his career. In fact, this leadership role at St. Mary’s is his first-ever full-time job in fundraising.
“I think the program does a great job of preparing all of its students to be these really multifaceted fundraising professionals – as opposed to being siloed into one development specialization,” he says.
We spoke with Cardillo about the highlights of the Fundraising Management program, the significance of his instructors in helping him advance his career, and his passion for helping kids and families through his work at St. Mary’s.
What led you to Nonprofit Management?
Before I enrolled, I wasn't working in development. I was working at Columbia doing events planning and program management for the Heyman Center for the Humanities.
I had some experience in nonprofit administration. However, one of the reasons I was interested in studying development and fundraising is that I wanted to be a nonprofit leader. It's really hard to be an effective leader of a nonprofit organization if you don't have a diverse set of fundraising skills.
Plus, Columbia is renowned for its fundraising program. I was really excited to apply and get accepted and pursue the coursework.
How did you balance work and school?
The class schedule was pretty convenient. I was able to attend classes in the evening after work and do homework done on the weekends. There are weekend courses, too, which makes it easier for people to juggle career and school. That timing made the program much more manageable. It was a lot of work, but the scheduling made it a lot easier than it might have otherwise been.
You were working at Columbia while you did the program. Can you talk a little bit about the tuition benefits that you were able to use and how you were able to afford the program?
Yes, I received tuition benefits from Columbia, and that was hugely helpful. That was one of the reasons that I chose Columbia, because as my employer they would provide financial assistance. That said, I do think that the program is a solid investment for professionals outside of Columbia as well.
How did your degree help you land the job that you have now?
Like I said, I was looking for a way to break into the field. Upon taking these classes I discovered that not only were the instructors excellent teachers, but also they're talented and experienced fundraising professionals. They brought their wisdom to bear in their lessons.
But I also benefitted from the program in terms of forming professional relationships with my instructors. They championed me as a fundraiser and as a candidate for fundraising positions. It was their support that helped connect me with this opportunity.
More specifically, I did a little bit of freelancing work for one of my professors. I developed some really important grant writing that landed me the position I currently hold. That experience, which came directly out of the fundraising program, helped me build my resume and portfolio.
Is there anything else you wanted to mention about the program or your career?
Without the fundraising program, I wouldn't have found this position at St. Mary's. At this organization, I believe that we're carrying out important work for vulnerable populations – kids with medically complex conditions. It's something that I'm really passionate about, something I believe very deeply in, and something that offers me a sense of purpose every day. That was made possible because of the Fundraising Management program, and that's something that gives me a great deal of satisfaction in my career.