March 9, 2023

What’s Acting Got to Do With Fundraising?

“Acting is not about being different. It’s finding the similarity in what is apparently different, then finding myself in there.”
     – Meryl Streep

Can you imagine being asked “What’s your real job” nearly every time you explain you’re a fundraiser? I can, because it happens frequently when I tell people about my other profession – acting. It’s…humbling. Especially when the question is often quickly followed with the advice: Don’t quit your day job.

Well, ok, I won’t. Because I love both my professions. I’ve worked as a consultant in nonprofit development for 20 years, and as an actor even longer. In both careers, I believe I have something to offer, I feel passionate about the work, and I’ve found fulfillment. In one or the other sometimes it’s a feast, and sometimes a famine, but I’ve learned to take things as they come.

Act I

Last year was a banger. I counseled multiple nonprofit clients toward greater vision and fundraising capacity, involving executive searches, development assessments, campaign feasibility studies, campaign planning, and campaign counsel. 

I’ve been teaching major gift fundraising each fall at the Northwestern School of Professional Studies, and last fall’s class of students was phenomenal. 

I also appeared in three theatre productions here in Chicago – two musicals and a play, plus a commercial and a staged reading of a new musical that we recorded in the studio. And I booked three more theatre gigs for this year. 

Act II

Lately, I’ve often been asked, “How have you managed both of these pursuits for so long?” Rather than answer off-handedly “very carefully,” which is definitely true, I’ve been reflecting on a more precise response. 

I’ve realized that these two career paths are symbiotic. I’m honestly not sure if I’d be as good at either without the other. Use the arrows bellow to take a look at the parallels I’ve discovered, and you’ll see why.





I encourage you to reflect on how the skills and strategies you use in one area of your life can strengthen your ability to succeed in another, just as I’ve found with fundraising and acting. You might be pleasantly surprised how much you can achieve, whatever your personal or professional dreams and aspirations.


Anne Smith is an actor in the Chicago theatre community and a fundraising consultant with Ter Molen Watkins & Brandt. She’s recently been nominated for two non-equity Jeff Awards for her work in two productions last year.

2023 Non-Equity Jeff Award nominations: Theo Ubique and Kokandy’s ‘Sweeney Todd’ lead the way

To learn more about Anne, click here.

Written by

Anne Smith

Anne Smith is Senior Vice President at TWB Fundraising.


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