You should also ask yourself if you are gratified by being the person mostly responsible for bringing an idea to fruition. As a fundraiser you are often the one whom everyone looks at to turn aspirations into reality.
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Profession:Acting Deputy Director of Development, Brooklyn Law School
What inspired you to go into this field?
My education. I grew up in a small town in southwestern Oklahoma where living “hand-to-mouth” was not only common, but the way of life. In fact, savings accounts hardly existed and life insurance policies were literally unheard of—not to mention other wealth management vehicles. I didn’t realize the significance of this until college where I began to understand the dynamics of economic disparity which sparked an interest in social justice (and obviously a tremendous appreciation for education). After college, I moved to New York with the idea of turning this interest into a career. Since then, I have, through various roles contributed to philanthropic decisions made by corporations, foundations, and individuals to benefit non-profits and the communities they serve.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
The outcome. For me, it’s seeing the gratitude a scholarship recipient has for his or her benefactor. It’s experiencing the growth of academic centers that serve individuals directly and impact discourses that affect populations globally. It’s walking into a state-of-the-art facility that the generosity of others built to house the inquiring minds that will lead us tomorrow. It’s the happiness on a donor’s face when I share with them these outcomes. Overall, it’s the fact that I contribute to a person’s development just as others have to my own.
How do you give of your time and/or money?
Like most, I aspire to do more. But when I have a penny to spare, I typically support my own organization at the Brooklyn Law School, my alma mater, and the Children’s Hospital Foundation in Oklahoma. I also volunteer for NYCares and NYC Parks.
Who is your nonprofit role model?
I don’t think she would accept the title “role model” but my mentor is Joan Donahue, who is a Major Gifts Officer at Fordham Law School. Shortly after arriving at Fordham Law School I had a conversation with Joan about my career aspirations. It ended with: “Jared, YOU CAN DO THIS!” I am very grateful for her ongoing guidance.
What do you hope to accomplish in your career – how will you make a difference in the world?
I believe fundraisers are always searching for their ultimate accomplishment, their ultimate impact on the world. Generally we do not produce the science to cure Dravet Syndrome, the scholarly work that examines the limits of corporate bylaws, or the research on the health effects to BPA exposure. Instead, we are asked to secure the resources needed for others to do this work, and thankfully, there are plenty of worthwhile missions and generous donors to help organizations fulfill those missions.
How do you inspire others to join you?
Most people whom I recruit (or at least try to) are working or have worked in the private sector so I like to explain how their professional skills translate into the non-profit world and how those skills can contribute to an organization’s mission. At that point, some, if not most, struggle to identify a particular cause that they care enough about to refocus their careers, but occasionally something clicks. That’s when I bring to life the impact they can have: “Just think of what your daily train ride home would be like if you spent your day helping students defray the costs of their education? What would it be like receiving a note from these students in the future that thanks you, your organization, and the benefactors who helped make their professional dreams possible? What would it be like to later see that those students are prospering by making impacts on the world that you couldn’t do yourself in one lifetime? [NAME], YOU CAN DO THIS!” (Sound familiar?)
What advice would you give anyone considering a career in the nonprofit sector?
Find a mission that you care about. No matter the role in the organization, you should care about what your organization aspires to do. If you’re interested in fundraising, I suggest you first ask yourself if you consider yourself resilient. For example, have you ever dated or married someone whom you pursued for months if not years bouncing back each time from their rejections? In fund raising you are constantly being told “No” in various ways, and your ability to push forward on to the next potential donor is as important, if not more, to your success than any of your professional skills. (For the record, my wife pursued me). You should also ask yourself if you are gratified by being the person mostly responsible for bringing an idea to fruition. As a fundraiser you are often the one whom everyone looks at to turn aspirations into reality. With that comes a significant amount of pressure but also immense gratification when the word “aspiration” no longer befits a project because it’s now real. If your answers are “Yes” then my advice is to contact someone who is a fundraiser and chances are they will be happy to share with you information about particular opportunities—myself included.
What in your view is one of the main challenges that nonprofits face, and what do you think is the best way to overcome such challenges?
From my perspective, many nonprofits lack the level of buy-in from leadership needed to acquire necessary resources. Too often I hear about leaders’ unwillingness to create a culture of philanthropy throughout organizations that result in positive experiences for donors. For example, in higher education alumni generally serve as a school’s donor base which means that every exchange with alumni is important, whether it be from career development, alumni relations, or admission departments. Each exchange effects a graduate’s perspective of the school and their propensity to give. If leadership is not fully committed to a culture of philanthropy chances are too many of those exchanges are not given the level of attention and energy that each deserve. No matter the organization, it takes a village to raise money but it all starts with leaderships’ willingness to understand this.