Many years ago, when I was about to embark on a new job that involved raising funds for a nonprofit organization, the practice was still called fundraising and donor management systems were just becoming common. I found myself in this situation after being encouraged by the Executive Director to branch out from my original responsibilities, and I had agreed with no small amount of trepidation.
I was preparing to return to the world of work after the birth of my first child, and frankly I had no clue how to be a fundraiser (or a mom either, for that matter). I began searching for a childcare provider and found instead a fellow fundraising newbie, who had recently given up her childcare business to work as a fundraiser for a local charity. We talked for an hour, having never even met before, and agreed that we would connect regularly to talk about how things were going. In essence, we decided to embark on the journey together and it proved to be a most valuable step in the process.
We gradually became aware of a number of others in similar situations in our local community, and the group began to grow. We eventually evolved into a small networking group that met to share coffee, stories, successes, and failures. We even gave ourselves a name – Partners in Philanthropy – and eventually added subcommittees, seminars, and special events. When we realized that we had basically become our own home-grown fundraising association, we merged into the Association of Fundraising Professionals and became our own chapter. That group still meets regularly and the networking continues on.
The reason I share this little walk down memory lane is that these connections with other fundraising professionals proved to be the most valuable part of my journey. They helped create an environment that deterred territorialism and competition and instead fostered sharing and cooperation. And while we were all fighting for our own organizational missions and beneficiaries, we soon came to realize that the donor won as well. By collaborating to create a healthy philanthropic environment, donors could feel more valued and were frequently reminded of so many wonderful choices to help others and give back.
If you haven’t yet joined a network of like-minded professionals, I highly encourage you to do so. There are so many choices – one is bound to be a good fit for you. Here are a few of the more well-known options, and may your investigation lead you to others as well:
- Association of Fundraising Professionals
- Association for Healthcare Philanthropy
- LeadingAge Thrive
- Council for Advancement and Support of Education
- National Council of Nonprofits
Cheers to the power of sharing!