I know, I know. Clichéd start, but even though I’m not a fan of cliché this one is pretty apt. Let me explain.
About eight years ago, I tripped over a job advert and found myself working in a university Development Office. Like most serendipitous things, I had no idea that one interview would lead to a career in a field I adore.
I started off in gift processing/database admin, but I always felt somewhat in awe of those in the office doing the grown-up job of asking for money in the first place. I’d see lots of gifts cross my desk, I’d write happy letters for fundraisers to say thank you, and I’d wonder what it would be like to write something that made someone want to get involved, or train a student caller to ask a person to support. It seemed to be a magical combination of hopeful storytelling, data science and above all, an overflowing well of enthusiasm.
Luckily, I was given the chance to join the wonderful fundraisers I’d watched so closely, and was delighted to be offered a job in a support role in the Annual Giving team. I wanted the job so badly and was so convinced I couldn’t possibly get it that I cried after the interview! My new boss gave me a hug when she told me the panel were actually very impressed!
I learned a helluva lot from that boss. She might be surprised to hear me say she’s the best boss I’ve ever had but she truly is; a great friend and a fantastic, supportive mentor. I credit her with a lot of my passion, determination and love for higher education fundraising.
One of the most important things I picked up while working with her is that an Annual Giving (or Regular Giving, or Individual Giving, depending on your organisation!) fundraiser wears many hats. Often all at once. This, I think, is the spice of what we do.
One minute you’re writing an urgent appeal letter about a new scholarship or bursary that’ll give students the chance to pursue university education. Then you might be training a group of students to talk about that scholarship or bursary, before letting them loose on the phone. You’re listening some of their conversations just to hear them talk to graduates who studied their subject, or have gone into a career they’re interested in. It’s the best feeling when your caller comes off the phone with a big grin because they really enjoyed the chat they had with an alum – and it’s an even better feeling when you hear that the alum enjoyed talking to the student too!
But it’s not all lovely conversations and high-fiving students who have reached a
particular goal. It’s also fiddling with website content to find just the right image to go with your text (you know, the one with the really smiley student in front of the… oh where did I save that?!). It’s logging into your web CMS and tweaking the html code so that image
sits where you want it to, and not off in some odd place in the margin you didn’t even know was there.
It’s waiting for your database export to finish, then opening your mahoosive spreadsheet and excitedly diving headfirst into the analysis – what did I do well for donors this time, what can I do better for them next time? It’s watching gifts arrive in the mail bag and cheering when a supporter has included a nice note about their time as a student. It’s mentioning that lovely anecdote in their thank you letter, hoping it makes them smile as they made you smile.
Above all, it’s inspiring. It’s inspiring students to talk about projects close to their hearts. It’s inspiring donors by showing them what amazing things their gift can achieve. It’s inspiring in its variety, working with fantastic people in everything I can get my eager little paws on.
It’s the spice that adds flavour to a normal workday. It’s the cliché I’ll never get sick of using.