As National Mentoring Month 2012 draws to a close, I wanted to profile a young fundraiser that I have been mentoring. I have had the pleasure of knowing Leticia John for probably about three years or so. Leticia is the Development Officer at The Whitby School in Greenwich, Connecticut, with prior experiences at Iona College, Youth, I.N.C. and Changing Our World. We first met while she was studying at our shared alma mater, The Robert F. Wagner, Jr. Graduate School of Public Service at New York University. I have been and continue to be proud to help her in any way that I can as she builds a career and grows in the wide world of fundraising.
How did you get into fundraising?
Entering my first year as a graduate student at NYUWagner, I joined the Youth, I.N.C.’s staff as an intern. My program of study was a Master of Public Administration in Public and Nonprofit Management and Policy. I was thankful to obtain the position at Youth, I.N.C. because the organization worked with many small youth-serving non-profit organizations to help build their fiscal and managerial capacities to be successful in fulfilling their missions. Thus, I had a firsthand opportunity to work directly with executive directors, participate in trainings that focused on management, board development and of course strategic fundraising among many other topics. Working at Youth, I.N.C. was an invaluable experience, where I was able to learn the essentials of supporting start-up/small NPO’s and how to raise funds through one-on-one solicitations, direct mail solicitations, events and board development.
I decided to stay within the fundraising field because I realized it was an essential skill to have in the non-profit sector. Furthermore, there is always a demand and need for individuals to take on the responsibility of soliciting funds, whether through fundraising events or one-on-one interactions. I also believed that I would develop a skill set that would be transferable in many other professions (e.g. policy and campaign management, program and event management, communications, executive leadership positions in public and or non-profit organizations and the like). To the same extent, I really enjoy my daily activities as a fundraiser because it fits my personality — I get to plan events, meet new people, do research and make a real difference that has an immediate effect. Closing and stewarding a $10,000 gift and what that $10,000 can provide for an organization gives you an awesome feeling.
Based on your experience at Iona College, what are some pros and cons of higher education fundraising?
I’m not sure if my answer will be unique, but typically institutions of higher education have larger and more dynamic fundraising programs and capacities. One of the biggest opportunities is that you have a larger pool of people to solicit. It’s a great arena for someone to start their career; you can test materials, events, approaches, etc. An obvious con is that higher ed (in my experience) is more bureaucratic and there may be too many “cooks” in the kitchen (for example, Vice Presidents, Assistant Vice Presidents, Directors, Associate Directors, Campaign Managers, etc.) with roles that can be very segmented or overly cloudy. Some may also suggest that it’s harder (depending if you are raising unrestricted or restricted funds) to build a case and/or illustrate the impact of funds raised.
Nevertheless, I loved my experience at Iona because it was dynamic and there were so many opportunities to develop my skill set as a fundraiser. The catch to any fundraising program is assessing if it has sufficient capacity and enough resources to effectively take advantage of those opportunities.
I think a larger conversation can be had on the pros and cons of working for a small or large fundraising team, though it really depends upon what you want to accomplish in your career as a fundraiser.
In your non-fundraising life, what are you passionate about?
Oh, this is thought-provoking! I make an earnest attempt to just enjoy life. I am very social and truly enjoy interacting with people. There are so many beautiful places, tasty foods, fun adventures to experience — why not be passionate about experiencing it all with friends and family.
Where do you see the future of fundraising in the next 10 years?
I think the field is on an upward trajectory. However, I believe that raising/soliciting money is also becoming very personal. We all know that people give to people, but donors are becoming much more strategic in the organizations they support and supporting organizations that are personal to them, have meaning to them, relate to them, and have an effect on them. As a result, fundraising has to become more creative and interactive. It will be interesting to see if nonprofits with similar missions will compete or collaborate as they grow to make impact.
I also think that fundraisers who are in senior leadership positions are more inclined to stay in their positions than ever before. I imagine this will have a negative impact on junior and mid-level fundraisers who are trying to advance their careers. Nevertheless I think fundraisers will always be in demand and they will become an invaluable source to an organization the longer they are there raising funds.
If you didn’t have a chance to read last week’s Fundraising Mentor Profile, check it out here.
Do you have any questions for Leticia? Has your fundraising career been similar to hers? Do you see the future of fundraising in the same way?