This month’s Featured Fundraiser is Jennifer Maxwell.Thank you Katherine Wyatt for referring her to me. If you ever would like to nominate someone for Feature Fundraiser just send me an email. – Jason
What kind of fundraising do you do and who do you do it for?
I am the Executive Director for the Warrick Dunn Foundation. Our mission is to reward single parents who have taken the necessary steps to become a first-time home buyers by providing additional down payment assistance and home furnishings to qualified recipients chosen through a closed nomination process with our housing partners. We pride ourselves on keeping administrative costs low; therefore, our staff consists of two people (myself included) who fundraise through grant writing, events, corporate/individual gifts, planned giving and social media.
What keeps you going? Why do you keep working in development?
As Executive Director, I wear many hats and I consider development the most critical component of my job. We have a mission, program, measurable objectives, participants, funding and volunteers; none of which can work in isolation. Development is the glue that holds the design together; without it, no one aspect alone would succeed.
What tips/advice do you have to other fundraisers in your field?
A professor of mine once said in reference to cause marketing and development, “If you’re not the best at what you’re doing, or at least second best, you shouldn’t be doing it.” Many nonprofits duplicate services and this makes fundraising almost impossible. Donors want to feel good about their contribution. Make it easy for them to know what you do and be able to communicate why you are the best at doing it (clean accounting, statistics, testimonials, donor benefits, etc.).
What is the most frustrating or difficult thing about fund development?
I think a main challenge of development is staying mission focused. There are endless grants and funds available and many times nonprofits chase them without doing the proper research on whether or not it’s a proper fit with what they are trying to accomplish. Watering down a mission or straying from it will not secure funding.
Do you have any memorable donor visits or solicitations that you’d like to share?
Recently, at an event, a potential donor approached me and said, “Your enthusiasm is contagious and I can tell you’re genuinely passionate about the work you do. Tell me how I can help.” While this was a flattering observation, it is important to note that enthusiasm and passion are key to fundraising. When people sense your commitment and excitement, you’re half way there. This sort of energy comes from perseverance and patience when job hunting, don’t settle for less than the job you want.