Featured Fundraiser: Sandy Clark

This month’s Featured Fundraiser is Sandy Clark. Feel free to leave a comment with questions or let me know if you’d like more information about her organization. If you know of a fundraising professional that I should feature here, I’d love to hear your nomination just send me an email. – Jason

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

I am the Director of Development Communications and Annual Fund for the Rural Development Institute (RDI). We work to secure land rights for the extreme poor in developing countries. Check out our new and improved website at: http://www.rdiland.org

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

After a successful career in policy and program management I took a step away – including a one year sabbatical to travel around the world. As a result of this self-reflection I decided to become very intentional and look for an organization that matched my passion for international development with evidence based research and programming. My work at RDI allows me to introduce powerful people in our community and across the world to a powerful idea- that land can and does make a huge difference in transforming lives and societies. There is so much joy in introducing people to this truth and in seeing the steady expansion of RDI thanks to so many committed people in the community who want to support change around the world.

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

First, is be focused and patient. Relationships, the really great ones, take time. RDI has been working in this field for over forty years and it is just now that we are picking up momentum. My second tip is to take risks. I am a huge believer in jumping in with both feet and trying out creative ideas. I usually have a couple going in my head at all times. It keeps the energy flowing and excites others to join your cause. Finally, I believe in knowing your subject area. I spend time learning what we are doing and staying informed on current projects and trends in the field. You can’t sell it if you don’t passionately believe it.

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

That is simple–providing the level of personalized attention that each donor and staff member deserves.

You recently changed jobs from a large local social service agency to a small international organization. What has been the major difference?

The primary difference has been in the size of our development department. I went from a 14 member team to a 4 member team. With that I have increased the need to multi-task. I am now the event manager, annual fund manager, writer and researcher – to name a few. What I have also found in this change is a closer link to program staff. In my previous organization our development team was a bit removed from program and it was hard to connect with their day to day activities. Departments and programs were in different buildings and many times different cities. At RDI we are all together and we have regular learning sessions where the entire staff is invited to hear a trip report or recent research from program staff. One day I will be learning about deforestation in Kenya and the next day I will hear about micro-plots in India. The learning opportunities are fascinating and provide me with tremendous stories that I can share with donors.


3 Responses to Featured Fundraiser: Sandy Clark

  1. Event 360 says:

    Jason, thanks for a great interview… and Sandy thanks for sharing your thoughts! Sandy – you talk about the hardest part of your job is “providing the level of personalized attention.” Can you share with us some of the ways you find that are most effective for showing those volunteers, participants, and donors that you care and appreciate their time?


  2. sandy clark says:

    In response to your question, I have to admit, I am struggling with this one. Of course I have in place a quick thank you process with personalize letters (we are still small enough that I can do that) and I organize interesting and fun events–one is coming up at a local art gallery featuring photos from our field work. But beyond that, I am trying to think of creative ways that are not your standard spam emails. The challenge of course is time. I am thinking of forming affinity groups but I don’t want to start anything that can’t be done well. What about you? Love to hear other ideas.

  3. Jason Dick says:

    Event 360 thanks for your questions and Sandy thanks for answering. If I may spend just a second to say a nice word about Sandy I think it might go a little further to answer the question about caring for donors.

    A comprehensive program and special acknowledgement initiatives can go a long way but they are just tools. One of Sandy’s greatest skills is authentic relationship building. Donors that she develops a relationship with become more than volunteers they become friends of the organization. Sandy has a unique ability to draw people in and make them feel like highly valued and respected advisors. This is an attitude that cannot be replicated through using special tools.

    When I think about good donor acknowledgement we can’t forget the value of creating authentic solid relationships. If all we do is send a perfect and beautiful thank you letter but we have built no depth to our relationship with the donor they will see right through that.

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