Featured Fundraiser: Sarah Kaiser

This month’s Featured Fundraiser is Sarah Kaiser. If you ever would like to nominate someone for Feature Fundraiser just send me an email. – Jason

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

Photo of Sarah KaiserI am one of two Donor Relations Managers at the National MS Society, Greater Northwest Chapter. In my role I enjoy the fun and privilege of supporting and engaging volunteer fundraisers who help us carry out our mission to mobilize people and resources to advance research for a cure and support everyone affected by MS. Through their leadership as Walk MS and Bike MS Team Captains this amazing group of donors, volunteer their time and willingly engage their friends and family to form Teams that work together towards a specific fundraising goal. Then, I get to be a part of celebrating with them as they participate in Walk or Bike MS.

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

My job is so rewarding! Each day, I get to be a part of others generosity. Whether I am thanking someone for their support, talking with a Team Captain about ideas to engage others, or inviting a new person to join us, I am always sharing in the experience of someone else’s generosity. Despite the hard work of tracking the numbers, continually re-evaluating strategies and implementing mini campaigns as we move closer to Walk and Bike MS, it’s all about being a part of a community that wants to do something positive. I am also continually challenged by the immensity of the need and the great opportunity I have to be a part of addressing it.

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

Make talking with people your priority and don’t get bogged down in the small details. Remember that giving and asking others to give should be joyful, and that from every experience there is something to learn. Do the hardest things first and don’t be so afraid to make a mistake. Take advantage of the great continuing education and peer learning opportunities available to you—they will not only give you the tools to improve your work, but also re-energize you through the stories and learning’s of others. Always embrace opportunities to be collaborative with others in your organization. It will strengthen your ability to engage donors and make you appreciate the aspects of your organizations work that you don’t interact with daily.

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

The greatest challenge for me is to find a balance between the need for face to face time with donors and the careful development planning that is essential for our work. When I face my large list of donors it can sometimes be overwhelming to think of the time it will take to develop relationships with all of them. There is always more we can do to plan. I’m learning to make it my priority to pick up the phone. It’s too easy to hide in the preparation and administrative work of development, when the real successes and discoveries come from reaching out and talking with people. I try not to allow my careful preparation to get in the way of making that call, sending a note or inviting someone to coffee. While having a plan is essential, carrying it out is too!

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

Before my first visit with a World Vision donor I thought preparedness meant I had to know the answer to every question they could possibly raise. What I found instead, was a remarkable couple whose generosity and compassion for the poor had been a source of life and inspiration to them for more then 50 years. I learned to listen and ask questions. Since then, I am no longer intimidated by the strangers on my list. Instead, I look at them as people like you and I, who care deeply, give generously and desire to make a difference with their lives. Now, with each donor visit, I look forward to the opportunity to learn and be inspired by the stories I will hear and grateful for the occasion to discover how I can better serve and engage this incredible group of supporters.

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