I did a really awesome thing on Tuesday. I went to a graduation of fundraisers.
I wasn’t sure it was going to be so fun. It was kind of a long drive from my house in Boulder through Denver traffic. I wasn’t sure where the heck I was going to park, and I had a pile of work to do instead.
But I am so glad that I went. I’ve been to lots of graduations before, but this one was special. It was for fundraisers that completed the Institute for Leaders in Development (ILD) at the University of Denver.
Participants of ILD go through a year of classes with fundraising professionals. They each get a mentor who helps them to identify a fundraising challenge from the nonprofit where they work. Participants work through those challenges with colleagues and mentors, culminating in a written document that is then presented to a panel of fundraisers for comments. (Some of you reading this may even be graduates and can tell us more!)
I was lucky enough to be a panelist this year for the first time and I loved it. The projects presented were about capital campaigns, middle donor programs, development plans, and donor engagement. I loved seeing the different ways that fundraisers think about evolving messaging, demographics, and opportunities, while wrestling with the long-held trusims of raising money.
Going to the graduation was really, really inspiring for me. First of all, it was a real graduation, in a lovely old building at the University of Denver. Friends and families were there, cameras were clicking. Volunteers for ILD, many of them well-known and beloved fundraising professionals in Colorado, were in the audience.
There were speakers, including some that had started the program 10 years ago. And a quote from each graduate’s mentor was read out as each person received their award.
The quotes were moving and amazing. They talked about the “can-do” spirit of the graduates and their hunger to learn. Each mentor spoke about the value of the fundraiser to the organizations where they worked, as well their devotion to fundraising.
The keynote speaker, Dorothy Horrell, Chancellor of the University of Colorado Denver, talked about how fundraising is a “calling” for so many. A calling that allows us to align our work with our values. A calling that is a privilege.
It certainly felt like it on this day, at this graduation. It wasn’t just a gathering of fundraisers. It was almost a sacred space of knowing, connection, and celebration. It gave me chills (in a good way).
I’m writing this because I want you to know that as a fundraiser YOU are a part of this sacred space. Your drive to make the world a better place is incredibly special. AND you are not alone.
You might not do something as comprehensive as ILD, but I encourage you to build community with other fundraisers. Share ideas, challenges, and personal dreams. Find a mentor and learn from their experience. Learn how the calling has impacted their life. And when you’re ready, be a mentor. Pass your own knowledge on to people just getting started.
The only way to improve our profession is for us all to recognize this calling and our responsibility to keep it going. Whether you are at the beginning of your journey or a seasoned fundraiser, you’ve got something to offer.
Image by Stacey Kennedy from Pixabay