What kind of fundraising do you do and who do you do it for?
I am the Manager of Major Gifts and Stewardship at the Canadian Women’s Foundation. The Canadian Women’s Foundation (CWF) is Canada’s only national foundation dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls. The foundation works to end violence against women, move low-income women out of poverty and empower girls with confidence, courage and critical thinking skills. CWF is ranked as one of ten largest women’s foundations in the world and it has supported over 1000 programs in every province and territory since 1991. I manage the Major Gifts campaign at the foundation. My role includes securing donations and cultivating a base of major donor prospects ($2,500+) nationally. I develop cultivation and solicitation strategies for current donors and assigned prospects, conduct prospect research, attend major donor fundraising events throughout the year, and correspond monthly with visits, e-mails, phone calls other means of communication. All of this is done toward the ultimate goal of securing individual major gifts.
What keeps you going? Why do you keep working in development?
It’s an amazing foundation to work for; the work that we do is important and rewarding at the same time. I also work with an amazing group of volunteers. The world of philanthropy is changing. There is a transformation in the way society’s problems are solved. No longer able to be reliant and wholly dependent on government funds for support, organizations and foundations have turned to the private sector and individual givers. I work with an amazing group of volunteers that have the ability to give money, raise money, attract media, attract other wealthy individuals, and single-handedly draw attention to issues at a level previously unknown. Unencumbered by excessive red tape, political cycles, or demanding shareholders, these philanthropists can think long term and act quickly. Together we are affecting significant, widespread and lasting change in our society.
What tips/advice do you have to other fundraisers in your field?
Have fun and don’t take it too seriously. It’s easy to get bogged down by the small details of fundraising. Excel lists, fundraising databases and daily correspondence can get frustrating at the best of times. Remember why you’re there and what your work is helping to accomplish. Don’t be afraid to talk to your donors and individuals involved; it is the main part of a fundraiser’s job. More importantly, don’t forget to listen. Part of your research should include listening to the people who benefit from this work. Understanding the problems you are trying to address cannot be done effectively without seeing them through the eyes of those who feel them most. Also, the best ideas and campaigns come from the engagement of volunteers and staff. Create a positive environment where ideas are shared, knowledge is deciphered and everyone is part of the overall goal, strategy and success.
What is the most frustrating or difficult thing about fund development?
No matter how big your goal is, how hard you work or how successful you are it seems there is never enough money to address all the needs. You have to focus on the positive stories, the lives you did change and what you did accomplish. Also, the world of philanthropy and the number of nonprofits and charities has really grown recently. There are 161,000 registered non profits and voluntary organizations in Canada. The charitable sector has become highly competitive. Donors, regulators, the media, and others have increasingly high standards for charities and their operations. This is of course a good thing. It has however made fundraising a little more competitive and leading edge. You have to be constantly evolving in a manner that is engaging and compelling in order to retain and secure current and new donors and volunteers over and over again.
Do you have any memorable donor visits or solicitations that you’d like to share?
All I can say about any of my donor visits or solicitations is to keep your enthusiasm and passion about the work you do. These are fundamental key points and requirements of fundraising and a fundraiser. When your donor senses the commitment, energy and excitement in you you’re half way there. Also, be sure to encourage your donors to commit their time, energy, and insight, and not just their dollars, to the initiatives they support. The deeper and individual is invested in a campaign or initiative, the greater becomes the probability that they will provide long term support and aid in expanding the fundraising base of the non-profit.