Lillian Archer

I’m waiting for the day when someone wants to write their fourth grade report on “What I Want To Be When I Grow Up” as a Development Director or Professional Fundraiser. I don’t think that’s happened yet.

Location: San Francisco, California

Profession:  Director of Development, San Francisco Botanical Garden Society

What was the first charitable gift you ever gave?:

I have two childhood memories of giving. The first is of UNICEF trick or treating collecting coins. The second is a math-a-thon for St. Jude’s Hospital. We were given workbooks and sponsored by family and friends with a penny for every problem we solved.  The entire  school  participated and every year, I would look forward to  the FUNdraisers.  I  always  made my sure my coinbox was filled for UNICEF.  All the  elementary  grades competed within the school and we got excited. It had an impact on me understanding what charity was – whatever way that was defined. It was up to strangers and their kindness to support people in need. That was a lesson that has stayed with me.

When I think back to the first real gift I gave because I was moved by a mission – it’s the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation which spoke to me very deeply as they enable people to quickly save lives by taking a simple action and supporting life saving bone marrow matches. That costs around  $ 20  and gave someone a chance to live their lives forever. My best friend at the age of four was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. They were able to remove that cancer from her. But, at that young age, I had a friend with a deadly illness that needed to be cured. That stayed with me. When I heard the founders story of Gift of Life – he was an individual who couldn’t find his own match and turned into a worldwide campaign, built a bank of people who were willing to give to a stranger. This story of how the world came together to save one great person on this earth and wound up saving even more  is so impactful

Tell me about what you are doing to make a difference in the world through your work.:

One of the factors that motivates me to work in development is bringing together private, corporate, and civic supporters to make the change they want to see in the world. I get to be the connecter in the equation. That’s what gets me going everyday.

What inspired you to go into this field?:

The philanthropists and their impact. The people who dedicate their hard earned money to see through a change they wish to see  the impact through. As a fundraiser, you are tracking those gifts. This is what happened because you made this impact. For example, I could share that you saved 500 lives because you have given them protection, water, and food. When I talk to people and can say, you could put an end to an epidemic and make that impact in the world. How could you say no to that opportunity?

What is your personal charity of choice today?

As a professional, you are always advocating for the organization you work for. Beyond that,my husband and I support  organizations which help our city, our world, our environment. We support a variety of important organizations.

Who inspires you to give?:

My parents set that example of always helping others in need. Life isn’t only about you and your family. It’s our responsibility as individuals to make sure all people have peace and to make any impact that you can.

What is most interesting to you in philanthropy currently?:

I think the focus on impact and sharing what people’s dollars do. It’s okay if that money pays for that light bulb or salary. You need to run the whole organization. It’s important to be transparent about how the dollars are spent. That aligns incentives all around. When donors see that, they are motivated and it holds the organization accountable for upholding their mission.

What advice would you have for someone who wants to work in this field?:

Do it. It’s the most fulfilling motivating job you can ever have. You get to make positive change in the world. It is a rewarding career. I’m waiting for the day when someone wants to write their fourth grade report on “What I Want To Be When I Grow Up” as a  Development Director or Professional Fundraiser. I don’t think that’s happened yet.


Julia Levy, Founder, has a decade of development experience, including working for a philanthropist, a small nonprofit and now a large nonprofit. She has raised significant dollars for numerous causes, from education to religion and from donors of all ages. Julia holds a Certificate in Fundraising from NYU’s Heyman Center for Philanthropy and an undergraduate degree from Cornell University. Julia has taught fundraising workshops, most recently at Brooklyn Brainery and coached development professionals.

'Lillian Archer' has no comments

Be the first to comment this post!

Would you like to share your thoughts?

Your email address will not be published.

Why We Give tells stories of ordinary philanthropists, making a difference, dollar by dollar and hour by hour.  

LinkedIn Auto Publish Powered By :