What kind of fundraising do you do and who do you do it for?
I am the Director of Community Giving with Pride Foundation. Pride Foundation is a community foundation, focused on LGBTQ equality, providing grants and scholarships across the Northwest. We have about 3,500 donors and volunteers every year – who pool their resources together at Pride Foundation – to make those grants and scholarships possible. I work on our overall fundraising strategy and donor communications plan as well as major gifts work and planned giving. I also provide fundraising coaching and training to our grantees. We just hired five new staff members to have a person in every state we serve. Supporting their work will be really exciting! I am lucky to work with a smart and caring team of people – and with a Board of Directors who believes both in the power of philanthropy and the importance of bold action.
What keeps you going? Why do you keep working in development?
Laughing. Hearing stories from our donors. Finding out that one person’s life was made better because of something that your organization was able to provide. I am the child public school teachers, so to some degree, a professional life that has social impact is just part of who I am. Yet, there are hard days, as is the case with any job. Today we received a note from a 14 year-old who had attended a camp for LGBT youth last summer – a grantee of Pride Foundation. The summary would be that her week at camp was the first time she ever felt safe, comfortable and applauded to be herself and proud of her accomplishments. Just wanted to say thanks… those are the emails and notes you keep for a hard day. By and large, I can’t think of any other job that would as interesting and fun!
What tips/advice do you have to other fundraisers in your field?
Follow-through every single time, use the phone and listen more than you talk. Remember that your donors are just people who want to make a difference, and you’re the conduit. Only work somewhere you do (or would) volunteer or be a major donor. Be authentic. Figure out what the very best of your development skill-set is (be it major gifts, events, research or database management) and then find an opportunity where the majority of what is asked for, comes from your best. Have a good story in your pocket. Be grateful. Build a community of other development professionals to count on as your brain trust for idea-bouncing, double-checking instinct, venting when needed and the occasional pep talk over a glass of wine. Be sure to have hobbies or regular activities away from work! I am a culinary nut (pun intended) and committed pinball player.
What is the most frustrating or difficult thing about fund development?
The nights I stay up fretting are always when there isn’t enough time. Too many things to do and not enough time… trying to delegate or prioritize… very hard. I also think there are times when you just have to let an idea go. It isn’t the right time, or the best use of resources… Just for me? I have to admit that the first word out of my mouth when I read this question was: “auctions.” Ha!
Do you have any memorable donor visits or solicitations that you’d like to share?
One of my very first major gift solicitations, I got myself so worked up, I got sick in the car. I had a whole new outfit, shoes and lipgloss ready to go. Changing in the bathroom at Starbucks was humbling. However, the visit went well in the end! On a less gross note – I remember visiting with a Board member while at a different organization. We chatted about her leadership, hoped for impact with the organization, learning goals and passion for the mission. I asked her to double her gift. She replied before I could barely finish the sentence… “Yes, sure, absolutely!” To which we both giggled and she admitted she’d never been asked directly before, so she was just as nervous and was relieved it was actually kind of fun and exciting. She has continued to be an major gifts advocate for them!