Elain Evans: Featured Fundraiser

Today’s “Featured Fundraiser” is a long-time friend of mine Elain Evans. Feel free to refer someone that you think I should feature. Thank you Elain for sharing your wisdom.

What kind of fundraising do you do and who do you do it for?

I am the Associate Director of Annual Giving at the University of British Columbia. I manage a team of 8, plus 70 student callers and we focus on raising gifts up to $25,000 through direct response.

What keeps you going? Why do you keep working in development?

I choose the organizations that I work for carefully because in the 16 years that I have been a fundraiser, working for a half dozen organizations in four different countries I have always aligned myself with a mission that I am passionate about. Fundraising is not just a paycheck. Working at UBC is a full circle to my adult life. The scholarships I received for my own post secondary education changed my life, and therefore I am totally committed to raising money to help other students – realizing it will probably change their lives too.

What tips/advice do you have to other fundraisers in your field?

Make your fundraising emotionally compelling. I don’t mean make your donors cry three times, but rather find a way for them to feel what you do. I am very proud of the way we have incorporated storytelling into UBC’s direct mail (and the lift in response since we approached it this way). I also strive to be truly creative, people are so bombarded with messages these days, more so than ever with the amount of content on the internet, so to rise above all the ‘noise’ I try to be innovative. Lots of fundraisers look to what their fellow fundraisers are doing and do a variation on a theme (Livestrong bracelet’s and all the look alikes come to mind?), but I would rather be the first. That means taking risks, pushing creative to the edge and looking outside of the not-for-profit sector for insight into trends and approaches. I pair all the creative efforts with solid systems to organize production. I use Microsoft Project to track campaigns. I work from a creative brief and require anyone we write direct mail for to sign off on creative concepts just as an advertising agency would. I push my printers and mailhouse to keep me up to date on with any new capabilities they have so we stay on the cutting edge. The ying yang approach works and keeps the 30 different faculties, schools and programs I create direct mail for happy.

What is the most frustrating or difficult thing about fund development?

For the most part I love what I do but a few things come to mind.. Boards that don’t like fundraising and don’t participate in the process (thankfully I don’t have to worry about that now), being grossly under-resourced, people who don’t appreciate fundraising as a skilled profession and when fundraising is separated away from an organization’s mission.

Do you have any memorable donor visits or solicitations that you’d like to share?

All my work is pretty visual so I will share a fundraising joke (the only one I know). A doctor, a lawyer and a fundraiser arrive at the pearly gates of heaven. St. Peter tells the doctor that he will grant him one wish before he enters heaven so the doctor asks for a million dollars. St. Peter grants the wish and the doctor enters into heaven. This generosity did not go unnoticed by the lawyer so when St Peter asks him for his wish the lawyer asks for a billion dollars. St. Peter grants the wish and the lawyer enters into heaven. When St. Peter asked the fundraiser what she would like, she says, “If it is not too much trouble could I please get the business cards of the two people who entered heaven just ahead of me?”

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3 Responses to Elain Evans: Featured Fundraiser

  1. Janice Chan says:

    That’s an interesting idea, having the creative briefs like one would if one were an outside ad agency as opposed to an internal department. Although I wonder if that would serve as well in a small organization or just be another piece of paperwork that annoys people. It seems like it would be very important, however, in a large organization where perhaps the development/marketing staff are not as well acquainted with each and ever program.

    And oh, that joke rings a little too true now doesn’t it?

  2. Elain Evans says:

    Jackie, the creative brief saves so much time by avoiding re-writes and managing expectations. You can also use the document to communicate timelines, budget, circulation, target audience and printing specifications.

  3. Scott Rooks says:

    I think what stands out to me about this post more then anything was your comment “I have always aligned myself with a mission that I am passionate about”. No matter if you are fundraising for a nonprofit or a sales type in a for profit this has always been an absolute truth in a sales or marketing profession.

    I believe this truth has a way of making magic happen when no one else could do it. Simply because we are so passionate, we will the vision to happen because we have thought out and prepared for every obstacle. Sounds a little like the twight light zone but it as been a tried and true statement in my professional life. I still remember the first time I read Norman Vincent Peale’s book “The Power of Positive Thinking” and the effect it had on my thought process and it helped to define successful moments I had in my life so I could understand this simple truth.

    Passion is but an expression for our believe and faith in our own spirtuality and how we can transcend the obstacles that appear solely because we are passionate about knowing and discovering the truth.

    Thanks for reminding us about this simple truth! Oh, I liked the joke also!

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