Fundraising for Nonprofits

Inspiring Gifts that Transform

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

How fundraising has changed my life

Am honored and humbled to announce that I have been elected the president of San Francisco’s Development Executive Roundtable. Hank Ross, the godfather of contemporary fundraising, founded DER many decades ago. He had a dream of a group that provided accessible training and peer support to fundraisers at all stages of their careers. Today DER builds thriving organizations and communities by helping nonprofit professionals teach the joy of giving.

For those of you who knew Hank, or know of his legacy, he talked a lot about the transformative power of fundraising: the ability to change not only the lives of those who receive, but also those who give gifts.

However, we do not often talk about the transformative nature of fundraising on those who ask for gifts on behalf of others. What can happen to you when you dedicate your life to fostering generosity in the world? I’d like to share briefly how fundraising has affected me, and the role DER has played in my life.

Not too many of us grow up as young children wanting to become fundraisers. Like many of you, I made a mid-career change into this line of work. After being let go of my previous job during the dotcom bust I looked around for other work. Given my background in nonprofit marketing, fundraising wasn’t too big of a stretch. Moreover, if I could learn to raise money, I knew I’d always be employable. It was simply a practical decision.

Soon I went to my first DER meeting, and like many others before and after me, I stood up and introduced myself as an unemployed person hoping to break into the field. That first day I met people who would become my friends and mentors, who would help me find jobs, and whom one day I would later hire.

Like many others, at first I found soliciting gifts very difficult. To be an effective fundraiser, I soon learned I had to come to terms with my own relationship to money and privilege. Over the years, I’ve come to believe that one of the greatest obstacles in raising money is not finding people who will give, but helping people become more comfortable with receiving abundance in their lives. Too many of us in this culture don’t think we are worthy of such attention or affection. In order to foster generosity in others, the first person we need to start with is ourselves. One who is mindful of the practice of fundraising, can develop a spirit of self-acceptance and generosity toward themselves, others and the world.

Today fundraising does help pay my bills, but it is much more than that for me. It is a sacred calling. I believe you and I are inheritors of a tradition of giving and receiving that goes back to our earliest cultural memories. It is at the root of all our major spiritual practices and indigenous cultures. We who help transform the world, cannot help be transformed in the process.

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, I encourage you to join DER with me. Individual memberships are only $50. Not too bad a price to pay to transform your life, don’t you think?

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