My journey to loving fundraising starts with a story. I started my career as a young enthusiastic program director in the nonprofit world. I was hired by the YMCA and my area of expertise was fitness. Picture leg warmers, headbands, and those very becoming leotards. While I might be dating myself, some of you know exactly what I am talking about.
Many community members did not see the Y as a charitable organization – nor did I. Program Directors were responsible for raising money to support the Annual Campaign. I dreaded fundraising. I did not understand the connection between the Annual Campaign and the programs the Y offered.
When the opportunity arose for me to create and run a youth leadership program, my first reaction was, “You have to be kidding me; I don’t know anything about kids!” But it didn’t take long for me to learn to love youth programs.
I was heavily involved with the young people, collaborating with teachers, community leaders and businesses to deliver and share the work of program. I witnessed the change that occurred with the youth in the program. These young adults were learning things that previously they had been unable, or uninspired, to learn. They had respect for themselves and others. I saw pride in their faces and their attitudes. It was truly remarkable. I had found my passion.
By being hands on, observing the program in action, the light came on. I saw the need – I understood the impact. I was eager to help raise money so that more kids could have these same experiences. I’d discovered the power of purpose, impact and passion.
Programs reveal the purpose of the mission of the organization. My program’s story was the perfect example. The youth in the program were learning social skills, gaining confidence and having fun. There was a need to provide a program that inspired, motivates and helped youth achieve and grow to their full potential. This was “the why.” When your purpose is clear, individuals understand the “why.” Seeing the work in action provides a personal connection and helps to tell the story, connecting the cause to mission.
What was happening in my program was special and amazing. Through it, the youth demonstrated a significant change in their attitude, increased positive performance in school and higher self-esteem. There was visible impact in the lives of these great young people.
Understanding the impact of this program, and other programs the Y offered, inspired me and ignited my passion to serve more youth in need. Making a difference and changing lives for the better certainly has a “feel good factor.” The impact of programs and services elevates “the why.”
I realized there were many youth in the community who needed our programs. I was inspired and driven to take action. I asked myself, “How can we serve more youth?” The answer was clear: raise more money. I learned most people want to make a difference, they want to be part of making communities better and changing lives. Telling the stories, sharing the purpose and impact of programs, helps individuals understand the organization’s mission. It also taps into people’s passions, concerns and interests. Just as my passion and excitement had grown, I could now share the story. I knew this was the best strategy for me to engage and motive others to join me.
Today, I am helping others learn to love fundraising. My passion was sparked by the faces of the youth and the impact of our programs. Programs bring the mission and cause of an organization to life. Your “why” tells a meaningful story. I hope sharing my journey was helpful in developing your love for fundraising.