Wednesday, March 7, 2007

What's Fun in Fundraising?

My oldest brother could not find a job when he came back from the war in Vietnam. So he took a year off to be a ski bum. That year turned out to be the rest of his life. He found something he loved to do and made a successful career for himself. He lived his passion.

I started a fundraising career at Arizona State University quite by accident. I needed a job, preferably on campus. I received letter recruiting Dean's List students to call alumni. I thought I would check it out. It turned out to be a lot of fun! I talked with alumni about the University, the new developments on campus (of which there were plenty) and had the chance to be a positive ambassador for the school. What I liked best was that every call was different, every call was a chance to share good news, and every call was the opportunity to reengage alumni and trigger positive memories. After a year, I became a student supervisor and my job was to train and motivate other students to make those kinds of calls. Finding incentives, creating competitions, and getting my peers excited about representing ASU was a great college job.

Like my brother hitting the ski resort for a season, I had no idea my college job was lead into a really fun career in fundraising.

What's fun about fundraising? Here's just a taste:
  • You can represent a cause you are passionate about
  • You can meet other like minded people who share that passion
  • There are endless ways to be creative--writing, presentations, special events, new appeals, new ways to share your message
  • Getting someone to say "yes" is an envigorating feeling
  • Finding new and effective ways to overcome objections can be a personal challenge
  • You help people
  • You make people feel good about how they are helping a worthwhile cause
  • You see smiles
  • No two days are ever the same
  • You can set goals and measure your performance on key benchmarks; you always know where you stand
  • You can convince people to think in new ways
  • You meet people from all walks of life

I suppose if you are a person that doesn't like other people, this may not be the best career route. But if you are a creative person that looks for new challenges, I assure you, you'll have fun in a development position.

Now, I won't be so naive as to say that every day is a party. But if you spend a career in advancement work, it's not hard to look at the time you've spent fundraising and realize there were far more good days than bad. Remembering the good moments when you provided a grant that truly changed someone's life is an incredible feeling. Helping a donor realize the impact his or her gift can make in changing lives is empowering--for everyone involved. Getting to say a sincere thank you or recognizing someone else is like handing someone a present. It's more fun to give than to receive. Watching someone's face light up because you've taken the time to acknowledge them will make you feel good. And if you feel good, you'll stay motivated.

There's plenty of fun in fundraising. It's hard work but the benefits far out weigh any costs. If you are new to the development field, give yourself time to enjoy the process. If you are veteran, think back to how your hard work helped make a difference for a cause or issue you passionately believed in. I guarantee you'll agree that it has been a fun ride.

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