Featured Fundraiser Bonnie Berry

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

Bonnie Berry PictureI am currently the grant writer at Bellevue College. Because the activities and programs at the college are wide ranging and various, I pursue federal, corporate and foundation grants that support innovation and advancement of student success, as well as teaching and learning excellence.

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

Development work is very exciting to me. It takes money to make positive change in the world and in people’s lives. Development work can drive that change. I used to do more events based fundraising and that is an important part of the whole development picture. But when I realized that the planning and preparation to prepare a compelling grant proposal can also help program staff collect their thoughts about program improvements, innovation or new programs that are crucial to helping those in need, I knew that is where I wanted to invest my skills and abilities.

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

The most important tip I can give is NOT to have concepts about who may or may not give to your cause. We can often have concepts about people by the way they look or how they live as to whether they will want to give to our cause. In reality, we cannot know whether our cause will touch someone’s heart unless we share about it. If we are passionate, and can create an honest human connection, more often than not, people will want to help. We will never know if we don’t ask.

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

One of the most frustrating things I have experienced in fund development is when a fundraiser gets so competitive with their team members that they lose sight of the synergy that can occur when the team works together for a common goal. I believe that a strong fundraising team that engages their full potential and works closely together to advance an organization will have the most profound results that will be monetary but also will build significant support for an organization that includes a strong board, volunteers and a broad base of donors that is enthusiastic about the cause.

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

I have had many memorable successes that have included mentoring program staff who have not been involved in the pursuit of grants before, working closely with the staff member to develop a response to a grant solicitation and then experiencing the excitement of receiving the grant award. I really enjoy mentoring others in the grant writing process. But my most treasured memory is before I was focused solely on grant writing, when I invited a woman to an event whom I did not believe would donate because she had her own very significant projects. I invited her because I thought she might enjoy meeting the founder and director of the organization I was fundraising for because they had a lot in common. My concepts were blown away when this woman made an ongoing pledge that has resulted in a six figure gift.

Who has inspired you as a fundraiser?

I would like to tip my hat to fundraising consultant, Susan Howlett. I have had the opportunity to take classes from her, see her at work as a consultant and get her feedback about challenges I am facing on a number of occasions. She is always upbeat and positive, encouraging and constructive and full of common sense about fundraising based on her long and deep experience. Susan is a great asset to the Seattle area development community. I am grateful for all I have learned from her.

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