An Answer to a Problem, Part I

My new book, Opening the Door to Major Gifts,  provides an answer to a problem. A problem I faced a number of years ago and that many others face today.

In 1998, after nearly two decades of working in the communications field, I took the plunge into fundraising and began work as director of development for the Greater Kalamazoo (Michigan) Area American Red Cross. Simultaneously, I began pursuit of a master’s degree in philanthropy and development at Saint Mary’s University in Winona, Minnesota.

Previously, I had supported development functions as public relations director at Kalamazoo College, writing a number of media releases announcing major gifts to the college. As an outsider, I had been intrigued by the fundraising profession and finally decided to make the jump.

While I enjoyed the opportunity to raise funds for the Red Cross, which has a great mission, I quickly learned that it was harder than it looked. Since I had learned at Saint Mary’s that “people give to people,” I initially set out a plan to meet one on one with as many of our current donors as possible.

I found that setting up meetings, especially meetings with individuals who were not personally connected to our Red Cross chapter, was a difficult task. It took a great deal more time than I had anticipated to arrange for the meetings, and a number of people I contacted either did not want to meet or did not have time to meet. The challenge was complicated by the fact that major gifts was just one of my fundraising responsibilities there—a commonality that many one-person development shops face.

In 2001, I was thrilled to return to my undergraduate alma mater, Western Michigan University, as director of development for the WMU College of Education. While I was fortunate in my new duties to be able to focus solely on major gifts, I faced the same resistance from prospects. It remained quite difficult to schedule meetings—especially introductory meetings. During my first year, it was tough going, to the point that I was getting rather discouraged. While it had long been my goal to return to WMU, this was not proving to be my dream job.

All along, I kept thinking, there has to be a better way.

The new book is the better way.

(Stay tuned for Part II, which elaborates on the “better way”)

Opening the Door to Major Gifts: Mastering the Discovery Call will be published in April 2013 by Charity Channel Press.

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Published in: on March 19, 2013 at 8:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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