Passionate and committed to helping you do more good!
I’ve been where you are…..
Nearly 20 years ago I entered the nonprofit sector because I wanted to change the world. I was eager to jump in and do whatever I could to make my community a better place. I have since worked in every position imaginable within small and medium-sized nonprofits. I know what it’s like to wear several hats and to juggle multiple priorities that seem like they will never end. And I have experienced the drive, passion, and excitement that comes from feeling so deeply connected to a mission that I would do anything to ensure the success of the organization.
I had my first taste of fundraising while I was in graduate school obtaining my masters in social work. I was taking a grant writing class and our final assignment was to write a grant for the agency we had an internship at. Our professor gently reminded us that the main point of the assignment was to simply go through the process, and not necessarily to get the grant (although it would be nice if we did). I was super passionate about the work I was doing and I didn’t just want to go through the process. I wanted to get my project funded. And to the surprise of everyone, including the agency I wrote the grant for, we got our project funded!
After this experience, I was told by several peers, professors and agency staff not to expect this sort of thing to happen all the time. “Grants are hard to get,” they said. But I didn’t let that stop me. As I took on my first professional job outside of graduate school I continued to find success with foundation funding. But, and this is a big but, I didn’t have the experience or knowledge of what to do once the funding ran out. Not only that, I didn’t know anything about how to ask for money from individuals (or so I thought). I didn’t even know that was a thing. The whole concept of asking for money was intimidating and scary and it made me sweat just thinking about it!
But I couldn’t stay paralyzed, because sooner than I could have imagined I found myself in a position of having to fundraise. With shrinking funds from our national office and threats of program cuts, I either had to raise money or face the possibility that I wouldn't be able to continue to do the work I loved and that was changing lives and institutions every day.
I didn’t know what I was doing. And, I made a lot of mistakes. But I also had some successes and learned through trial and error what worked and what didn’t work. I still remember the excitement I felt when I hosted my first fundraising house party, and when envelopes started come back in from my first appeal. I also remember the sadness, fear, and frustration when donors would call to ask to be taken off our list, or when donors would be upset with something I did or didn’t do.
Nonprofit work is hard. And it is joyful. It can be so lonely and it can bring you into contact with some of the most powerful senses of community and connection. There’s nothing quite like it. But, when it is hard and lonely, you need support to help you navigate through the muck to get through to the joy and connection.
That’s why I do what I do. For nearly 20 years I’ve been in the fundraising trenches. I didn’t go to school to be a fundraiser. I went to school to be a social worker. I chose to become a fundraiser because I had to in order to make sure the programs I loved had the resources they needed to be successful.
I know the stress of wondering if there will be enough money to make payroll or pay all the bills. I understand the fear of wondering if the big corporate sponsor, funder, or major donor will come through again this year. I know deep in my body the feeling of losing sleep wondering if our biggest event of the year will have anyone show up and spend money. And I know the gut-wrenching feeling of asking for money for the first few times and learning to just lean into that feeling anyway because I know that’s what I have to do.
I never wanted to stay in fear, so I read every book I could find on fundraising. I took webinars, hired a coach, and stayed open and curious as I experimented, learned best practices, and raised more money. And through amazing teachers and mentors, trial and error, and commitment I learned how to be a successful fundraiser. I have experienced the joy of making connections with donors and helping them channel their resources into an issue they care deeply about. I have experienced the thrill of hearing ‘yes’ to big gift requests. And, I have had my heart warmed by donors who have let me know that the thank you letters and phone calls they received made their day.
The most important lesson I learned is that building relationships with donors is the single most valuable thing one can do with one’s time as a development professional. And that thanking donors early and often is the key to deepening that relationship. In fact, I more than doubled my organization’s budget in less than three years by applying an ‘attitude of gratitude’ into all our donor interactions. This practice applied to sponsors, individual donors, volunteers, and also foundations.
What I hope to teach YOU is that through consistent, meaningful, and heart-filled gratitude you can WOW your donors and create lasting relationships with your supporters that keeps them engaged, loyal, and committed to your cause.
I look forward to supporting you in your fundraising efforts and to helping you raise more money than you ever thought possible.
Are you ready to WOW your donors? Click here to turn first-time donors into long-term, larger, loyal donors.