I have always hated asking people for donations of any kind. When I sold cookies as a Girl Scout, candy bars for a marching band trip, and raffle tickets at FFA banquets, I was constantly thinking about how awkward it was to ask and how it made me feel so uneasy. I’m very interested in the mission of many non-profits as well as the focus on community outreach and service, but I never pictured myself in a fundraising-focused position. However, I had the opportunity recently to meet with Jamie Foltz, Sr. Director of Strategic Partnerships at RMHC, and she explained her role in the organization to me, along with the roles of the rest of her team, who work heavily in development. The development sector in non-profit organizations encompasses a lot of things, including building relationships, meeting with potential donors and talking about investment options, overseeing fundraising efforts, event planning, and looking for ways to involve the community in the mission of the organization. Through this conversation, I have gained an entirely new perspective.
One of the biggest contributors to this new perspective was a statement I heard from both Jamie and one of our amazing speakers at the Columbus Foundation-“Courtney, you’re not asking for yourself”. Such a simple but truthful reminder. There is no need to feel uneasy about fundraising requests because the intent behind the request is not self-motivated. Fundraising professionals in non-profits are asking others to donate to a meaningful cause that they believe in. It’s easy to talk about something that you’re really passionate about, and to explain the significance of something so close to your heart. This passion has been apparent all summer as I’ve watched the way that staff from RMHC interact with members of the community. It’s not just a business transaction; it involves learning about that other person’s mission and goals and connecting those with the mission of your organization. Thinking of fundraising in this way not only eases my mind and makes it more exciting than daunting, but also makes me feel more qualified to do it-because people who truly care are the best candidates for explaining to other people why they should care as well.
Another important bit of perspective that I’ve gained this summer is that people WANT to give. We don’t have to beg and plead or inconvenience people; there are plenty of kindhearted individuals who want to be a part of something bigger than themselves and who simply want to help. They are eager to give of their time and financial resources to a worthy cause, and they feel excited and fulfilled when they can contribute. A lot of people are unaware of the many ways that they can get involved through non-profit organizations and make a positive impact on their communities, and non-profit employees who work in development, like Jamie’s team, aim to find and connect those people productively, which is pretty exciting.
Finally, the most ironic part about my change in mindset is that as much as I thought I disliked fundraising, one of my favorite aspects of non-profit organizations lies at the heart of fundraising. As a past FFA president, Resident Advisor, and very involved student at OSU, I have been planning events of all shapes and sizes for years. I enjoy the challenge and even the chaos that event planning presents, and I love the opportunity to be creative and have free reign over a project. As it turns out, the majority of event planning in non-profit organizations is for the purpose of fundraising!
I’m really thankful to have had the opportunity to connect with Jamie and other fundraising leaders in Columbus, and I feel so enlightened about the impact that these people can have at the organizational and community level. As Jamie was explaining all of the aspects of her position, I was thinking about how the majority of those tasks felt like a dream job to me, and how crazy it was that something I thought I would hate would turn out to be one of my favorite things. I’ll be continuing to volunteer with RMHC throughout the school year, and a lot of my work will involve helping to plan events with the development team. I look forward to continuing to learn and seeing all that my new role as a volunteer holds!