What kind of fundraising do you do and who do you do it for?
I am a Financial Development Director for the YMCA of Greater Seattle. The YMCA has been my only employer since graduating college and it has always been a mission match organization for me. After many years of Youth Development work I wanted a change. Relationship building is the heart of youth work and it turns out it is also the core foundation of fundraising. So I left youth work to become a fund raiser. I was initially hired to help our organization complete its $40M capital campaign, which provided facility upgrades and built 3 new Y’s. After the campaign was over I transitioned into one of our brand new YMCA’s (the Matt Griffin YMCA in SeaTac) to focus on fund development through annual campaign, major gifts and grants.
What keeps you going? Why do you keep working in development?
I’m a list maker. It’s how my brain works. The following words best describe why I do what I do what I do: Passion, innovation, being a change agent, taking risks, dare to dream, fun, opportunity, value, transformative.
What tips/advice do you have to other fundraisers in your field?
- Keep it simple, think big, act now. I cannot take credit for this mantra but it is the best advice I have ever received with regard to fundraising. Early in my development career I had the opportunity to attend a training hosted by For Impact of The Suddes Group. This experience revolutionized my thinking about raising money. I still need to do my homework but I don’t need to be distracted by real or imagined barriers.
- Make the ask, then be quite and listen. We are always in such a hurry, afraid the donor will say no or that they will counter offer with a lower gift. Shhhhhhhhh, silence is golden, you will be surprised.
- Impact drives income. This is one of my favorite concepts to share with co-workers and board members. If we do our part to make a difference then raising the money will be that much easier.
What is the most frustrating or difficult thing about fund development?
Working in an infrastructure that ultimately holds me accountable for the outcome, but the outcome is not achievable without effort from the entire team. This can be true for many positions in a large organization – not just fund raising. Holding this concept close reminds me of how important it is to relationship build with my own team. In development we spend a lot of time cultivating and stewarding donors, don’t forget to apply these best practices with the people who help make it happen.
Do you have any memorable donor visits or solicitations that you’d like to share?
I was planning for our first annual campaign at the new YMCA. We had a very small budget to host kick-off, weekly meetings and victory. One of our business neighbors is a well respected conference and retreat center. I decided they should host our kick-off and donate the space and catering in full as an in-kind investment. I met with their general manager asked for what I wanted and got it! That was a year ago and the general manager in now on our board of directors and we are partnering their business to host a winter holiday event for foster youth in our community.
Any last words?
Create opportunity. If you have door opener, use it. I skate for the Rat City Rollergirls and I am happy to share this as a conversation starter. It has served as a spring board for great dialogue on visits with donors. And if all else fails, I can always hip check them!