Where will your fundraising journey take you?

road forwardWelcome to O.D. Fridays at DonorDreams blog. Every Friday for the foreseeable future we will be looking at posts from John Greco’s blog called “johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly” and applying his organizational development messages to the non-profit community.

In a post titled “Ultimate Conquest,” John talks about the concept of conquering ourselves and our quest for self actualization. He starts by sharing a story about a king and his three sons. The king sends these three princes out into the world to “conquer dragons, maidens and black-hearted knights.” Each of princes returns to the kingdom having had a different experience. I won’t ruin the story for you, and I encourage you to click over and read it for yourself.

As I read John’s post, I realized that inside my fundraising soul I have many of the same experiences as the three princes.

When I worked for the Boy Scouts, it really was the first time I had serious fundraising goals and expectations. I learned so much from that job. All of my inexperience contributed to fear, and the way I conquered my fear was to approach fundraising as a competition. I am very proud of those years. I excelled and built an annual campaign that doubled in size over a three-year period. I received many accolades and recognition for my work. What I didn’t realize was that it was simply the first phase of my journey because I had only learned that donors were something to conquer.

The next leg of my journey brought me to Boys & Girls Club of Elgin as the executive director. I was a young executive director, and I thought that I had “made it.”  LOL   If I only knew then what I know now.

During my years at Boys & Girls Club of Elgin, I honed my skills as a fundraising professional. I was no longer afraid of donors, and I was adding more and more fundraising experiences to my repertoire. I was no longer the knight of annual campaigns, but I was writing grants, developing direct mail appeals, organizing special events, and building capacity with a capital campaign in mind. Much like the second prince in John’s post, I worked on becoming more nuanced and polished.

I remember thinking at the end of my tenure at Boys & Girls Club of Elgin that I had finally made it.   LOL   Again, if I only knew then what I know now.  That experience was only one leg of my journey.

When I accepted an internal consulting job at Boys & Girls Clubs of America, my view of fundraising expanded yet again. I no longer wanted to conquer donors or nuance contributions out of them.  The amazing team of individuals with whom I worked helped me see that there is a difference between “fundraising” and “resource development”. Whoa!  They also exposed me to the difference between “transactional fundraising” and “donor-centered fundraising”. I also started to understand the difference between “resource development” and “philanthropy”.  Huh!

As I look back over the better part of two decades, I understand that hindsight in 20/20. More importantly, I see three very distinct experiences, but I understand that they are three legs of the same journey.

I am not naive enough to believe I am at the apex of this mountain that I am climbing. However, I do feel confident enough now to say I recognize that I am on a fundraising journey. While I cannot see very far down the path in front of me, I am excited about my new realization that the non-profit world is my playground and this voyage is going to take a lifetime.

Have you had a similar experience with your fundraising career path? Where are you at? What have you learned? Where do you want to go? Did John Greco’s post trigger any great thoughts about you or our profession? Please scroll down and share some of your thoughts in the comment box.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC