This month’s Featured Fundraiser is Miriam Barnett. 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 have been doing fundraising since 1987 when I entered the field of nonprofit management. I just finished raising close to $5 million for a capital campaign for a new domestic violence shelter for the YWCA Pierce County where I am the Executive Director. It was a complete joy since the YWCA has not done a capital project for 83 years. I also teach in the Fundraising Management Certification Program at the University of WA, Tacoma campus.
What keeps you going? Why do you keep working in development?
Fundraising is all about connecting people who care with causes that matter. It is about creating meaningful relationships and giving people the opportunity to make a difference. I love that I can play a part in making a connection for people to a cause that matters. I think of myself as someone who can help connect the dots. Mission plus passion plus connection equals positive change. It works the same when I am teaching. If I can help the students I teach connect their passion to make a difference with the passion of a donor to make a difference, the world benefits. My personal mission is to do whatever I can to create a better world and promote the greater good. I can’t think of a better way to meet my mission than to work in development.
What tips/advice do you have to other fundraisers in your field?
Never be afraid to ask. If you don’t ask, they can’t say yes. I always tell my students that if a donor says no, they probably have a good reason. It is not a personal rejection. Live with an attitude of abundance and don’t slip into scarcity thinking. Abundant thinking believes there is enough….enough money, enough goodwill, enough for everyone. Scarcity thinking thrives on fear; it paralyzes and allows us to make excuses for not asking….like blaming the recession. Believe you will succeed and you will. Believe you won’t and you won’t. It’s a choice! Choose abundance!
What is the most frustrating or difficult thing about fund
The most difficult thing is that the reward for meeting your goals is higher goals!
Do you have any memorable donor visits or solicitations that
you’d like to share?
One early morning I was sitting at my desk before we open at 8 am. My office is by our front door. It was dark out, and a homeless looking man, knocked on my window. He said he had a small donation for the YWCA and he wanted to bring it by himself. He handed me an envelope. I thanked him profusely for the envelope and off he went. In the envelope was a check for $7000. I tried to find a number for him. The check did not have one listed. I was finally able to track him down and I asked if I could meet with him to thank him personally. He came by my office. I asked him why the YWCA?
He told me that recently a woman approached him who was beat up. She had 2 children in her car and all her possessions and she needed $20 for gas. So he went to the bank and got her $20. But what he really wanted to do is figure out how to make a greater impact. So he did research and found out about our work (domestic violence). For 2 more years, he knocked on my door. Two years ago, he left me a message and disappeared. He always was a bit of a mystery in that I never could figure out what he did. I think of him often and hope he is ok and that one day I will be able to see him again.
What is an observation you would like to share about fundraising?
Like the story above illustrates, you cannot judge a book by its cover. I have met extremely wealthy people who give small gifts and people with hardly anything who have made huge gifts. Some wealthy people have all their resources tied up in large homes and other investments. So treat everyone equally. I treat a donor who gives $5 like I treat a donor that gives $5000. I always write a personal note on both their thank you letters and call (or have a board member call) to than them whenever possible.