Many of us in fundraising didn’t come here naturally.
I started my career in sales, an artist’s rep for commercial photographers. I loved that job, not only because I was able to surround myself with incredibly creative people, but also because I loved creating relationships.
Our clients were important to us for repeat business, no doubt. Often times, I would end up helping them find another photographer to fit the job they were currently working on, rather than hiring our studio. Their needs were more important to me than making another sale. They came first, always. I worked hard at gaining their trust and solidifying the truth; that we were in it together.
When I left the advertising industry and started an educational non-profit organization, our relationships with donors became my new focus. The values I had while in advertising stayed true. Relationships are the key to a sustained fundraising strategy.
Now that I had my own non-profit to fund, the motivations for raising money became more complex. I was navigating all of the challenges of starting and running a start-up and began noticing the same one thought, over and over in my head.
“If you had more money, you could do more good.”
That was it. That was my new motivation for continuing, on a daily basis, to think about how we could raise more awareness, and build more relationships with donors that were aligned with our mission.
Over time, I learned how to attract and keep corporate sponsorships, how to stand out among the thousands of worthy causes demanding the attention of our local philanthropists and foundations, how to create a grass-roots movement to raise awareness and gain the attention of our legislators, and how to create meaningful events that bring new friends together in support of a mission, one individual at a time.
Ever since that time of running the organization, and now long after, in one form or another, communicating a message, organizing around a cause, and persuasion to cause action, have been my calling.
Because for me, that’s what fundraising is.
Fundraising is my activism, my contribution toward positive change. It’s what I do to fill my contribution bucket and to help create impact in my community.
As if that weren’t reason enough, I’ve become aware of just a few more:
I’m a fundraiser because today, in my city, there are over 30,000 high school-aged youth that are completely disengaged; they are not in school, nor are they employed. We need to do better.
I’m a fundraiser because 100,000 people in my own city lack access to healthy, fresh fruits and vegetables because large areas, in the urban core and elsewhere, are defined as food deserts for the lack of grocery stores within reach.
I’m a fundraiser because people I care deeply about are suffering from, and dying with the disease of dementia. Their dignity needs to be preserved.
I’m a fundraiser because we’re sleepwalking into catastrophic climate change that will put everything we hold dear at risk, namely our oceans. We need to figure this out and get on the same page about how we can turn it around.
I’m a fundraiser because I grew up in a state where farmers went from the very wealthiest of my community to being among the poorest, with many family farms going under. I support the Farm-To-Table movement, empowering small organic farms to thrive.
I’m a fundraiser because male violence against women continues to routinely be excused and downplayed. I feel this deeply in my stomach – a clear signal that I need to do what I can to help erase the notion that women can be treated this way.
I’m a fundraiser because we are losing the battle against addiction and people are dying without ever reaching out for help. Recognizing that addiction is a disease and removing the stigma will enable and empower people to get that help; it can save their lives.
I’m a fundraiser because my parents showed me, throughout their lives, the power and importance of caring for people in my community and elsewhere, and standing firmly, with pride, in what it means to be an American.
And, I’m a fundraiser because I know the amazing potential and hope there is in bringing great causes and generous, passionate people together to make change.
These are my reasons. I’m sure each of you has your own basket of why’s, your own spark for getting up every morning and persevering through the difficult days at your non-profit. (And I know you’ve got plenty of difficult days.)
Here’s the thing though: great fundraising requires more than passion. Beyond the “why”, it requires excellence and mastery. It requires consistent, authentic communication about the impact that is made when a donor funds your mission.
As fundraisers, we sit in that sacred space between donor and beneficiary, with duties and responsibilities to both. It’s not easy, but it’s definitely rewarding.
Let me help you create plans that systemize your communications, your reporting, and your outreach, in order to garner more contributions and harness more advocacy for your cause.
Let’s stay in touch!