We at Talent Market are so lucky to have the best jobs in the world! We get to place talent in critical roles within free-market organizations doing vital work to advance liberty. Going into 2021, we thought it would be helpful to follow some placements after they start their new jobs. So we are introducing a new feature: Placement Profiles, where we interview some of the talent we have placed and provide insight into how our successful candidates found their way to the free-market nonprofit world, what their jobs are like, and how they got interested in liberty in the first place.
Our first Placement Profile features Quinn Cotter, who Talent Market placed in 2019. Quinn joined Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s development team as an Associate Development Officer and has since been promoted to Manager of Major Gifts. Quinn is a fundraising rockstar with an interesting background; he earned his JD but instead of practicing law, he fundraises for liberty! If you’re interested in learning more about fundraising careers, getting promoted, and great careers for JDs outside of traditional legal practice, you will learn a lot from this interview.
Talent Market: First thing’s first: what got you interested in liberty?
Quinn: I have always been interested in history. As I learned more about history, it became apparent how unique the American experiment was. As someone blessed with the fruits of this experiment, I feel the responsibility to defend it. From there, the people I have met around the liberty movement are some of the best people I know. They only further inspired me to keep fighting for the country.
Talent Market: Give us the nutshell version of your career trajectory and tell us why you decided to work in the free-market nonprofit world?
Quinn: While in high school, I was a virtual researcher for Glenn Beck’s radio program & Fox News TV show. After an in-person internship, this evolved into a full-time position launching Mercury One, a conservative non-profit founded by Glenn Beck. Ultimately, I managed their corporate development program. I was there for four years, and we went from a start up to approximately $10mm per year in revenue.
I did this while attending Dickinson College, and in my senior year left to begin pursuing a law degree. After completing my JD at Elon University, I passed the bar exam, and took a position as a Portfolio Manager at a boutique investment firm in NY. My job involved some legal and investment work, but mainly focused on servicing existing client relationships and bringing on new clients.
While I loved our clients and the people I worked with, I wanted to execute business development (aka fundraising), but for a cause I deeply cared about. I believed the skills I developed in the law and for-profit sectors would be great tools as I made the shift. This led me to take a step back, pursue graduate work in business communications, and look for the right fit in the conservative movement.
Many of the problems in our society (suppression of conservative values, attacks on the First Amendment, ignorance of due process, etc.) originated on college campuses. If we do not identify, educate, and empower future leaders of the conservative movement, we will not have a movement to rely on. In this space, ISI is the gold standard, and happened to be looking for a major gifts officer. I joined in 2019, and was recently named their Manager of Major Gifts.
Talent Market: What is your job like day-to-day?
Quinn: As Manager of Major Gifts, my job is two-fold. First, I manage a portfolio of mega-donors nationally, and secondly, work to enhance our major gifts process as an organization.
For my caseload, I am on the road approximately 40% of the time. The focus of these trips is to strengthen relationships with current donors, share the ROI we are providing, and articulate ISI’s unique value proposition to potential supporters.
When I am not traveling, I keep our donors in constant communication about ISI’s programs. This means working on grant cycles, phone calls and emails to supporters, and jumping on Zoom meetings with donors I have not seen recently to keep them apprised of ISI’s work. These people fuel every mission we take on, and thus they are stakeholders who deserve to be regularly informed about the pulse at ISI.
In managing the major gifts process, I work with the rest of our growing development team. In addition to mentoring the newer members of our team, I am regularly monitoring our direct mail contributions and prospect pipelines to find donors who want to be engaged on a deeper level. We are also always refining our marketing materials, communicating with our programs team to understand what is happening in real time on campuses, and working to improve our planned giving program.
Talent Market: What is the most challenging part of your job?
Quinn: Business development (major gift work) has to be a passion, and not just a job. Evenings, weekends, and long road trips, are all commonplace. If someone wants a basic job, what I do will not be a good fit. We are constantly asking ourselves what new and creative methods we can employ to get in front of the right people, and gain their support for our mission. Most people we work with are pitched by 25-50 other organizations who are also in the liberty movement. To gain someone’s trust, it is a never ending process. Major gift work is extremely entrepreneurial. You have to crave the work it takes to build relationships all day every day.
Secondly, my work involves taking a complex body of knowledge, then learning to articulate it clearly and convincingly to any audience. That, in a nutshell, is what fundraising comes down to. For me, law school and financial experience refined this skillset, but this part of the job never ends. The people we meet with are some of the most intelligent, over achieving, and diverse people on the planet. They approach every meeting in a different way. We need to always be improving to meet their expectations.
Talent Market: What is the most fulfilling part of your job?
Quinn: The relationships I get to build with donors across the country. Our movement and value system is under siege. No place is this more obvious than college campuses. My job includes speaking with some of the most passionate and informed individuals in the conservative movement every day. I get to discuss with them unique ways we are fighting back on college campuses, and ensuring there will be a next generation of conservative leaders. Our supporters know we are in a fight for the soul of our country. Sharing the stories of our students and faculty has built numerous deep friendships.
Talent Market: What has surprised you the most about your job and about working in the free-market non profit world?
Quinn: The passion and hunger of donors across the country. For every instance of cancel culture and censorship, I could share ten examples of individuals, families, and foundations lined up to defend students and faculty. Not only is this inspiring, but it means we have more work to do than ever before.
Talent Market: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in doing what you do?
Quinn: Ask yourself a question: Do you deserve a job if you aren’t pursuing it with the skillset and passion the actual job requires?
If you want to work in conservative fundraising, are you networking every day, reading everything your target workplace publishes, articulating why you are the best for the position, chasing down aggressively every single lead with the same passion, sending handwritten thank you notes, etc? No one will select you to be a steward of their brand unless you are the very best steward of your own brand.
Talent Market: If you weren’t working to advance liberty, what would you be doing?
Quinn: I would be working in law or finance. I enjoy being client facing, but in an entrepreneurial setting. The communication skills required for non-traditional law and finance jobs suit me well, but the passion I have for defending America during these times has steered me in this direction. Our students and faculty are coerced to feel alone on campuses. It’s an honor to defend them.
Talent Market: Tell us something interesting about you that your friends in the free-market nonprofit sector don’t know.
Quinn: I led a team that traveled to Israel three times during the war in 2014 (Operation Protective Edge). We worked directly with the leaders of each branch of the IDF, and brought donors on certain public-facing aspects of these trips. To be on the front lines of such a crucial international conflict was a unique privilege.
Talent Market: What is your favorite liberty oriented quote?