Chapter Leadership Brief 6.20.19

By Jill Scibilia, AFP-NYC Secretary

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”

- Albert Schweitzer

As a fundraiser, I feel called to ignite sparks of interest in support of the mission of the organization and people we serve. There is nothing I enjoy more than making a personal connection with someone who wants to make a difference and is looking for ideas on how she can do this.  In the best of these conversations the donor is inspired by the mission and ways she can help—and we kindle a spark in each other.

It does not always work this way.  Perhaps a new program or building project I’ve been working to fund has hit a roadblock, and I don’t have another immediate option for donors who were interested in the project—or the other options I have are not nearly as interesting. Or perhaps a donor I’ve been engaging experiences a life event that delays his ability to make a gift—or he is no longer able to make it in the way he intended. 

These are examples of experiences that have tested me as a fundraiser, and I’ll confess, these were times I felt my light go out.  This is not easy for me to admit because I believe strongly in the power of the spark when it comes to fundraising and that as a fundraiser it is my role to inspire and nurture it in others.    

The truth is we all have moments when our light goes out. Perhaps it is an experience like the ones I shared.  Or maybe we receive bad news…or perhaps someone disappoints us or we disappoint someone. Or perhaps we are simply weary from the grind of the everyday.  

So what do we, as fundraisers, do when we feel that our light has gone out? I don’t have any magical answers, but I will share what I do…

Several years back I started the practice of maintaining a bulletin board in my office.  It includes photos of people who inspire me—the people who at one time or another have rekindled the flame within me when my light has gone out.  In addition to members of my family, it includes photos of donors, volunteers, colleagues and mentors with whom I have had the privilege of working. Looking at their faces helps ground me and remind me of how grateful I am that they are–or have been—part of my life and work. So I look at their pictures and then I pick up the phone and call a couple of them.

The conversation is different of course depending on who I call.  I will call a mentor or a colleague when I need a pep talk including development colleagues I have met through engagement with AFP.  Having a network of colleagues who share my love for our profession and understand what I do is invaluable.

I find the best calls I can make when I am having a tough day are to donors.  No agenda to the call beyond making a connection or letting them know I was thinking about them.  Forging relationships with those who want to make a difference is why I feel called to this work after all.  And by reaching out to them—especially during the challenging moments—I am getting back in the proverbial saddle.  If you are new to your organization and do not yet have deeply established relationships with donors, this can be a great time to make gratitude calls to donors who have made a recent gift to thank them and introduce yourself. 

Thank you for the work you do and for the spark you help kindle or rekindle in others in support of the missions you serve and the colleagues who share our profession.    

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