Archive for April 8th, 2018

April 8, 2018

Do You Really Have What It Takes to be a Successful Fundraising Professional?

If you want to be a successful fundraising professional, you need to constantly expand your knowledge and develop your skills. Great fundraisers are not born. They are created through hard work and dedication.

However, if you want to be a truly successful fundraising professional, you’ll need more than knowledge and skills. You need passion. You need passion for the profession, your organization’s mission, and for improving society.

One way to supercharge (or recharge) your passion is to remember what first attracted to the fundraising profession or what first inspired you to make a charitable donation. In my case, both are wrapped in the same tale. Here’s my story:

Little Michael at age 8.

My passion for fundraising and philanthropy began when I was eight years old. You see, I wanted my parents to buy me some comic books. My mother said that she would get me any ‘‘real’’ book I wanted but, if I wanted comic books, I would have to spend my allowance. Well, in those days, an allowance was not an entitlement; I had to earn it by doing household chores. Sadly, I was already at my maximum earning capacity. And I had no more money for the latest edition of Superman.

Because I simply had to have the latest Superman comic book, I asked my mother if I could sell my old comic books and open up a lemonade stand to generate some quick cash. Fortunately, she granted her permission.

My first entrepreneurial effort was a terrific success. I generated what in today’s dollars would be about $150. As an eight-year-old kid, I was rich! Recognizing that I did not need to buy quite that many comic books, my mother suggested I give half of it away to charity. She further said that, if I agreed with her suggestion, I could pick whatever charity I wanted.

At the time, our local newspaper operated a fund to send “poor inner-city” kids to summer recreational camp. I grew up in the suburbs. However, my cousin grew up in the big city. I knew how miserable summertime in the city could be for a kid. I knew how good I had it, even with our meager working-class lifestyle. I wanted other kids to enjoy the clean air and open spaces that I enjoyed. So, I took my coffee can with half of my earnings and marched into that local newsroom.

The editor was so moved that he had my picture taken and put me on the front page! My little eight-year-old ego swelled. I was inspired for each of the next several summers to run a front-yard fair for that summer camp fund. The only changes were that I gave 100 percent of the revenue to the charity and the event got bigger each year. It even inspired similar efforts in other neighborhoods.

I can trace the roots of both careers I have had in my adult life — journalism and development — back to that little boy’s experience. I learned a great deal about fundraising in those days, especially about what it takes to inspire donors to support a good cause. I also learned how good it feels to be philanthropic.

Philanthropy is a learned behavior. At MarketWatch, Kari Paul’s article “Want Your Children to be Charitable? Do This” opens with this sentence:

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