1. If you could tell a development officer one story or lesson that inspired you throughout your development career, what would it be?
I’ve had the wonderful good fortune of being privy to many people and their stories who have inspired and taught me a lot throughout my career, from donor-investors, to scientists and physicians to patients who were brave enough to share their stories. So, it’s hard to think of just one story. But, there is one person in particular who taught me the lesson early on in my career about the power of telling your story and understanding your audience. She was in the entertainment industry and she knew how to get inside the head of the audience, whether it was 2 people or 200, and communicate a story in a compelling and persuasive way. Her goal ultimately was to connect with people and move them on an emotional level. After all, philanthropy is all about passion and speaking to a person’s heart as well as their head. During my career, other wonderful philanthropists also taught me about their passions that connected them to their giving. These were very meaningful lessons that have stayed with me.
2. When you were in development officer, how did you stay motivated?
Connecting the dots between people and their passions has been a great motivator for me. The people who carry out amazing work and research at the institutions I’ve had the privilege to work for really kept me motivated, as did the people who were investing in their work. I loved “marrying” the passion of these people together. It was inspiring to me to be in a position that I could help build partnerships between people doing life-changing work and those who believed in it and contributed both their resources and their insights. Development work is not easy! It is important to remember at the end of the day why we do what we do. It is about something bigger than ourselves and that motivation is important in helping to see us through difficult patches.
3. With the highly competitive fundraising market, how may an institution's foundation or a nonprofit engage major donors that might set them apart?
Good, strategic communication is the name of the game! It is important first to understand who your constituents are: for example alumni, patients, parents, grandparents, or a particular social group. You want to understand their connection to you in order to deepen that connection. Major gift fundraising is all about deep personal relationships, connection and belief in the leaders and people who are charged with carrying out the organization’s work. The way in which an organization regularly communicates with their major donors and prospects is critical. It needs to happen strategically on multiple fronts, whether that be interacting with the President at a small personal meeting, receiving a report or letter (electronically or snail mail) from a physician or staff member, or a timely newsletter. Remember, we are all bombarded with information everyday. Make sure whatever form of communication you are using, that is personal and meaningful. Ultimately, it needs to drive a deeper personal connection to your institution.