Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life…. Confucius
As I enter the next chapter in my life and career, I looked back on how I got to this point and the one word I kept coming back to was PASSION.
For those who know me, I am very passionate about my family, service to others, my Wolfpack and yes, fundraising! Most people scoff at the idea of fundraising but when you have passion for the causes that you care so much about, fundraising is as easy as reciting your ABC’s.
I learned early on that passion can take you places that you never imagined.
When I was young, I was (and still am) a die-hard sports fan thanks to a Rutgers basketball player Dad and growing up near the Philadelphia Eagles, Phillies, Flyers and 76’ers. I also remember going to the ACC basketball tournaments with my Dad and knew immediately that this girl from PA wanted to go to NC State University even though it was far from home.
I tell people my passion for basketball brought me to NC State, but I must say NC State also has a great academic program in Forestry/Environmental Studies – another passion of mine. I thought I would grow up to save the planet, sitting in a forest ranger station (of course, not too remote from ESPN on TV).
I never in a million years thought I would grow up to be a fundraiser, but my passions for the environment, my alma mater and ending cancer (unfortunately a disease that touched my family and friends makes one passionate about ending it). I inherently knew that I could not work for a cause that did not truly inspire my passions.
I was fortunate to have had the most passionate professional mentors in my life. You might not recognize the names Audrey Booth, Judy Bright, and Charlie Witzleben but each had a passion for making the world a better place through fundraising for causes that meant so much to them. Their enthusiastic personalities were contagious. I learned from each of them to be authentic, to have an emotional connection that resonates with people to motivate them to support your cause, to be a passionate and compelling storyteller (I wish I had written down all of their stories), to have your passion inspire others including your team and your fellow fundraisers, to show your enthusiasm and be persistent in your passion – they never gave up easily, (I saw it first hand), and finally to passionately focus on the impact --- they always said fundraisers are not just raising funds; we are making a difference in the lives of individuals, communities, and the organizations we believe in. And as my favorite basketball Coach Jim Valvano said, “nothing has ever been accomplished in any walk of life without enthusiasm, without motivation, and without perseverance”. My dream team of Booth, Bright and Witzleben lived those words.
So, to the new fundraisers and even to the career fundraisers, ask yourself before taking on a new fundraising role, “is this cause one I can be genuine, enthusiastic and passionate about?" To me, fundraising is a passion not a job when you can align your passion with a donor’s passion, it becomes infectious.
Coming to an organization with fundraising knowledge is one thing but ask any donor and they know which development professionals are sincere (and yes, passionate) about an organization. I never believed that every good fundraiser could “sell” any cause. It takes a deep underlying passion for the cause to be a great fundraiser. It’s then our job to equip passionate board members, staff, and volunteers to succeed by providing them the fundraising skills and knowledge.
In our work as fundraisers, we are not selling, we are building relationships with those that share our values and passions. As I mentioned, fundraising techniques can be taught. So, my hope is that organizations are recruiting people with the right characteristics – the personal qualities to build relationships with passion to enhance an organization.
Joining Armstrong McGuire & Associates, I am honored to continue my passion for fundraising, service and helping organizations attain their goals to change their communities, people’s lives, and the world. I leave you with a quote by Sheryl Sandberg: “It is the ultimate luxury to combine passion and contribution. It is a clear path to happiness.”
I am happily looking forward to this new chapter.