Thursday, March 17, 2016

Top 3 Things I Learned as a Fundraiser

I've been opening and closing this thing for over a month.

I want to blog about my experience in the past month and some of it has to do with diabetes, some of it doesn't.

But here I go:

Recently, JDRF Canada did a reorganizing of the structure in which they operate. In that restructuring my position was eliminated. I wish my former colleagues well, I wish JDRF the best in that I hope they finally fund a researcher that has an actual human cure. I hope the families and people connected to JDRF stay connected to each other and the organization during these changes and in the future.

Working in diabetes, while living with it was a monumental challenge that I did not foresee in the excitement and flurry of accepting a position with an organization I was so passionate about those two years ago.

Fund development is an excessively difficult and trying career in any case, but when you add the fact that you are directly connected to the cause it makes is a monumental challenge that you face every single day.

When you are a professional fundraiser; constituents, sponsors, donors and general public seem to believe that you should be doing the excruciatingly difficult work for less than what the average high school student makes at the convenience store. People value your work so much, that they don't want to put a dollar amount on you- and they usually don't. Thankfully I was paid a reasonable amount for the work I did.

Top 3 Things I learned as a Fundraiser

1)Fundraising is a career that can grind your soul

There were times in my two year employment time that I felt like I was losing myself in the work. There were days that I would spend doing phone call after phone call, and letter after letter explaining why we deserved the very important dollars of the audience I was appealing to. I was often telling large and small businesses, individuals and funding organizations why I felt my life was just as valuable or more valuable than others.

So you can see why the No Thank Yous were extremely difficult to take. There were days where I would have colleagues tell me to not take it personally. I never took it as a personal slight, but I always wondered what it would take.

There were days where I would come home and take a hot shower and seriously question if I could do it forever. If I could accept that other people don't see what I deal with every day as a challenge. If other businesses would rather have their name on a huge children's hospital sign rather than put their logo on an event  that meant so much to so many. Most often those thoughts slipped through and faded in a short time.

You need to be a strong person to work as a fundraiser for an organization you're connected to.

I learned I am stronger than I thought.

2)When you tell people you're a fundraiser, they assume you don't or (more commonly believed) shouldn't get paid well. 

This is something that is said in an extremely underhanded way constantly. ALL. THE. TIME. Let me tell you this: if you have ever questioned an organization how much they spend on "overhead" you are questioning the value in the people who are calling, begging, and spending their days to make ends meet at that organization. While I agree fiscal responsibility is vital in the day-to-day operations in any organization, maintaining and retaining amazing talent is equally important. To hire the best, you have to offer the best packages financially.

Dan Pallota is champion of this train of thought. I believe he said it best when he said that society sees no problem in someone creating a video game that involves extreme violence and gore, and making a billion dollars off of it. But an organization openly declares that they are paying a new CEO $650,000 to help achieve their mission of curing AIDS, and people throw their arms up.

We are a society built on a capitalist structure, we need money to survive, we often believe that our value can be seen in a pay check. Attacking people who make above minimum wage who work for a charity is definitely not a place to start to change that.

I learned I am worth more.

3) I really love organizing events that have meaning 

My primary role was to fundraise and organize the walk, and maintain relationships with the people who fundraise for the organization. I loved the walk, it was an incredible, and often insurmountable amount of work. The outcome was always satisfying. It was always nice to see people having fun and feeling connected.

But there was one thing that I did in my time there that I think merits mention in my best moments. I created something called Finding Balance. After attending Friends for Life in Florida, and experiencing the connection there. After seeing people speak like Kerri from, and Joe Solo, and realizing the connections I made were permanent and life altering....I thought I could bring something like that to the people who were unable to just pack up and head to Orlando for a week.

I did it in Halifax from scratch. A day-long experience, sponsored by medical device companies. in 2014 we were the pilot location and it was wildly successful. There was over 130 participants with a long wait list. We did it again under a national directive in 2015...still successful also was done nationally.

I think this sort of work, conferences and mental health focusing is incredibly important. Not only that, but on a totally selfish level I love to benefit from them. If nobody else is doing it in my area, I need to be the one to do it.

I am hoping to continue on this path, perhaps in a volunteer capacity for now. But more on that as details unfold.

I learned that my passion to connect runs deeper than my passion for treatment.

I don't know what is in store for me in the future. I do believe that I have a lot to give, I have a lot of experience, I have talent and passion that I am holding close. I refuse to accept less than I believe I deserve. I am thankful to have so much support at home, from my family, and from my friends. It's been an incredibly difficult, challenging, contemplative month for me. I think I will come out on top of all of this, but I am still slogging through.

Oh and I am getting married in 9 days. So there's that. Life changes and what not.

gif isn't mine. I stole it. It's from giphy. Please don't sue me, I don't have income anyway sooooo it'd be useless!