I stumbled into fundraising quite accidentally. It was the summer after my second year in university and like 90% of students I was desperately looking for a summer job. I saw an ad to work with this company that looked super fun, engaging and most importantly paid $3 more than minimum wage. I was hired immediately and found out that it was for a street canvassing position.
I had never heard of street canvassing, but it was summer and I loved being outside and I loved talking with people, so it was love at first pitch. It was my first introduction to fundraising and that job taught me so much about how to deal with rejections, how to confidently ask for money, how to approach people and how to close gifts.
I would be a canvasser for two and half years after that and move from being a canvasser to a supervisor to managing the region. I was flown around Canada to help struggling offices bring confidence back to their canvassers and to help start new offices up. It was a dream job that threw me into many new challenges that I could learn and grow from.
From canvassing I moved on to working directly with one of Canada’s largest health charities and I was primarily responsible for their event fundraising. They had two signature events that happened each year, both which generated close to $500,000 each and were a ton of work. Unlike my canvassing position, this job didn’t have a lot of interaction with others (or at least not at the same volume) and was mostly a sit behind your desk and do your work type job. It was my first introduction to managing volunteer committees and keeping massive binders full of orders, invoices, contacts, critical paths and anything else that was needed for proper organization.
I moved from a secondary and primary fundraising role within a year and went from managing two events to 8 in one year. That was 8 events, all with their own committees who needed to feel valued and important, with their own budgets, own challenges, own targets and only one of me. It was a busy job. I would bank so much overtime that I could take over a month off in the summer and not have it affect my vacation. Again, I learned a lot about fundraising, especially in a bureaucratic setting, volunteer management and the importance of loving your team.
From this position I moved into the Director of Fundraising role for a multi-million dollar international development organization based in the heart of downtown Toronto. I was the first official full time fundraiser that was hired and it was my job to build a team and increase revenues drastically within my first year. I was responsible for peer-to-peer, corporate, major gifts, monthly, foundations, and individual fundraising. Within 8 months I built a team of five that was incredible. I loved that team as if they were my own family, and we did a phenomenal job. I learned how to manage different personalities, how to form teams, how to set goals and how to juggle twelve hundred things at once. I learned how to do organizational budgets, how to interact with boards, I bettered my presentation skills and overall learned a ton in this role.
Beyond this role, my fundraising became personal. I co-founded a for profit company that was still pretty dependent on non-profit funding sources. I loved (love) the relationship aspect of raising money and that was evident in my role as co-founder. Having the weight and responsibility of other people’s income and employment on your shoulders in a tremendous responsibility. I learned how to work in different currencies, how to build processes for financial tracking with different projects in different geographies. I learned how to interact with Government officials at a federal level. I learned what to not do in managing staff (read more about that in How My Biggest Success was also My Biggest Failure) and all around learned the basics of entrepreneurship.
Over the last few years I have taken time to fundraise for things that matter to me, not in any official capacity but I have learned through my years that fundraising is about connecting, both personally connected and connecting with others. If I don’t have a passion and drive for a particular cause, you don’t want me fundraising for it. On the flip side if I care about an issue you can bet I will pour my heart and soul into it and find the resources for whatever that cause or organization means. Fundraising is about the why and the heart – if you don’t have that you are probably in the wrong role.
Chat with me more about my story and how I can help you define your passion and figure out the best way for you to bring in the money. Visit my contact page and send me a note.