Kim Korzen: Major Gifts & Planned Giving Coordinator at North Carolina Symphony
WFU Class of 2016
Kim Korzen shares on the journey to her present development role at Raleigh’s North Carolina Symphony. We learned about the robust performing arts scene in the Triangle, and pick up valuable tips for networking and post-grad life prep.
DeacLink: What did you study while you were at Wake?
Kim Korzen: I majored in Sociology and minored in Dance. I also took classes in many other subjects to fulfill requirements, of course, and I took some Spanish courses and studied abroad in Chile.
DL: Since you’ve graduated, how has your career unfolded? Can you walk me through your path from graduation day to your current job?
KK: I took my dream internship after graduation with the American Dance Festival in Durham, working in the Performances department, which primarily handled logistics for visiting artists. About a month after that concluded, I started working as the Engagement and Artistic Coordinator at Carolina Performing Arts, which is UNC Chapel Hill’s presenting organization. I was at CPA from September 2016 - December 2018. Now, as of January 2019, I am the Major Gifts and Planned Giving Coordinator at the North Carolina Symphony. I have been happy with how my career has unfolded so far!
DL: How did you find and apply to the various positions you’ve held?
KK: I think I noticed the ADF internships for the first time in the summer of 2015 when I was looking at their upcoming performances on their website. I couldn't apply for the internship at the time because I was studying abroad during part of the internship, but I made a note to apply for it the next summer. I saw the CPA job initially on Twitter - an organization called Triangle ArtWorks in the area tweets out jobs periodically. For the North Carolina Symphony, I found the job on Indeed.
DL: What made you want to go into development, and what advice do you have for readers interested in breaking into the fundraising space?
KK: My position at Carolina Performing Arts involved helping with grants-funded projects, and I really enjoyed that aspect. It made me realize that I wanted to move into philanthropy. I love that fundraising involves many different types of work - like storytelling, data management, relationship building, and event planning. I like all the components, and I also like doing work that is so vital to organizations.
My biggest advice would be to not underestimate the value of the transferable skills you have. Though I did not have fundraising experience before beginning my current position, I had gained all the skills listed in the job description in other ways. The trick is being able to make those connections for your potential employer in your cover letter and interviews, and finding an employer that will understand your experience. I think my transition into philanthropy was made easier by staying in the arts, because my interviewers understood the work I had been doing. In addition, I sought out the advice of two former coworkers in philanthropy - my boss from ADF, who also broke into fundraising from working in the performances side of things, and the former grants manager at CPA who I’d worked with on multiple projects. They both were very helpful in speaking with me about their experience in philanthropy, highlighting for me how to discuss my transferable experience, and generally being encouraging. I also used them as my references, which was very helpful. So, I’d advise people to seek out mentors in the field, either in your colleagues or former colleagues, or through volunteering, who will be able to help prepare you as you apply for jobs, and also advocate for you.
DL: What is your favorite part about your job?
KK: I have been really touched by the deep connections that people have with the Symphony, and have enjoyed learning about longtime donors’ history with the organization from working in the philanthropy team. Because the Symphony was founded in 1932, many donors have grown up going to the Symphony, or remember seeing it as a student. One woman who is a donor mentioned in a note recently that her and her husband’s first date was to a North Carolina Symphony concert. I find those sorts of life-long connections really meaningful and motivating.
DL: What do you think Wake could have done better to prepare students for life after graduation?
KK: This might be a bit tangential, but honestly I think allowing students to live off campus more would be very helpful in preparing students for life after graduation. My scholarship came with the caveat that I could not live off campus at all, and of course all students had to live on campus for three years. I think that this leads to a bubble-like environment, which does hinder students from making more strides towards “adult” life.
DL: What attracted you to Raleigh, and what’s kept you there?
KK: I moved to Raleigh to be with my now fiance, who was finishing up his undergraduate degree at NC State. We’ve stayed because we’ve built a life here - we have great friends, are happy with our careers, and are regularly rock climb at the gym nearby. I’m also happy to stay because there are lots of fun things to do in the Triangle, between performances, restaurants, special events, parks, etc. I feel like I have plenty more exploring to do. In fact, I got a bike this past winter that I’m looking forward to taking further and further - and also commuting on regularly. I found a dance class I love too, which is key.
DL: What's the best kernel of advice you can think to pass on to current students and recent alums?
KK: Take the time to find things you enjoy doing professionally and personally - and if somethings not working for you, cut it out, and start looking for new opportunities if needed. And just breathe - the less stressed you are, the better you’ll feel, and the better work you’ll do (in your profession, and in anything else you want to pursue.)