Julie Davis, CFRE, Vice President External Relations & Advancement
I’ve heard many negative and uninformed comments about my profession as a fundraiser. “You’re that person who keeps sending me letters. I would never stoop to begging for money”. “How can you do this job? It’s ambulance chasing at its worst.” “I don’t know why they hired you. They just finished a capital campaign, what else is there to do?”
I’ve been marginalized, ignored, sneered at and dismissed. I’ve had new hires quit after a few months because they had no idea how hard the job was. I chose to enter the fundraising profession mid-way through a very successful marketing career because after the birth of my daughter and moving to a small town, I wanted to give back, to do something I would be proud to tell my child about at the end of the day.
I was really good at my job, I felt I could sell anything to anybody, so I wanted to make that count towards something important. I had no idea what was involved in being a fundraiser and to be honest I was quite arrogant about bringing my big city international career to the profession of fundraising, especially in a smaller shop.
I was quickly humbled by the professionalism of the sector, the knowledge of my colleagues and the ability of our volunteers. The Executive Director of a nearby charity came to the “Welcome Julie” Open House just after I arrived and offered his time and expertise. Thankfully I was smart enough to take him up on that offer and we spent hours together – starting with my list of questions that included “what is a major gift”, “what do I put on the board agenda” and “how do I manage volunteers”?
His patience, willingness to share and wise advice has been my experience with so many others in this sector. When I didn’t know how to proceed I “called a friend” and they always took my call. During the lucky thirteen years I have now spent in this profession I’ve had the opportunity to meet with countless donors and talk about why they give.
I’ve learned from volunteers about how to ask for money and never to take no for an answer. I’ve met with the recipients of our charity’s gifts and seen first-hand how we’ve made a difference and why it was so important. I’ve received unsolicited cards from board members and donors thanking me for the work I do for our community (truly!). I’ve had donors thank me for allowing them to be a part of our good work (that one brought a tear to my eye). I am a fundraiser because I have talents that can be put to good use to help others.
I am a fundraiser because I love the opportunity to help people, to say thank you, and to make wonderful connections between people who care passionately about the same things. I am a fundraiser because it’s a necessary and vitally important profession that enriches my life in ways I could never have imagined. Join me and your colleagues at the Congress and celebrate this wonderful profession, make new connections and learn about how we are helping to change the world.
Julie Davis, CFRE is Vice President External Relations and Advancement for Trent University where she is responsible for Development, Alumni Affairs, Marketing and Communications, Government and Community Relations and institutional events. The University is celebrating its 50th anniversary and in the midst of a $50m campaign, which includes a recently completed Legacy Campaign that doubled the number of expectancies in just 18 months. Julie Davis will be speaking at Congress 2014 in November. You can follower her on Twitter @julietrentuvp