Each one of us has a story to tell, especially when it comes to why we become development professionals. I had hired an incredible campaign director who wrote an interesting story of how he first got into the fundraising business, and the impact it made on his career as a development officer, and later as a consultant. Below is Bruce Bryne's story:
"I knew a district manager for a promotional advertising sales firm and was also volunteering for an Archdiocesan Catholic Social Service Agency when I became interested in fundraising. The Agency maintained multiple programs for the blind, hearing and speech impaired and mentally retarded as well as focused on rehabilitation, behavioral health, migration and many others. It was at this point that I realized I wanted to work in a profession where I could help others.
I was involved in a number of special events during the ‘70’s. As a result of my success with the Archbishop’s Gala, the Agency invited me to join their staff. I was a college graduate with a marketing degree and the development field was a relatively new industry. The pay was fair, but I would have worked for even less because I categorized my work as a vocation in helping some very worthy causes. In retrospect, I realized I should not have been afraid to ask for a reasonable and somewhat of a stretch salary. After all, candor and forthrightness are qualities that every development professional must learn in order to be successful.
Initially, I was sent to a school for special training in wills, estates and tax laws, that affected people’s charitable giving. I was named Director of Development and I spent ten years running special events, golf tournaments, galas and a small capital campaign. I also raised money from foundations, corporations, and church organizations.
Changing leadership then prompted me to seek other areas of development work. A friend advised me to look into hospital development because of the need to raise money to support new equipment, programs, and facilities. To my pleasant surprise, I found a position that included a 50% pay increase. I felt the hospital would be a good place for me. I spent the next twenty years as a hospital fundraiser sometimes taking over public relations responsibilities as well as other hospital management functions. Despite my successful tenure of Children’s Hospital of New Jersey, I served seven different Presidents and experienced the toll that the transient nature of the industry was taking on the hospital. I found that the average life span for a development officer was less than three years at a particular job. I therefore set my sights on a new direction in the fundraising industry.
I wanted to raise monetary resources in an organized way following simple principles that I had learned over the years. A long time friend David Phillips, suggested I come to work with him at his firm CDS and become an outside fundraising consultant. David and I had met while he and his firm helped me with many successful capital campaigns for the hospitaI. I knew that I liked the security of a full-time hospital based position and I worried whether consulting work would be secure. I achieved Vice President status in the Hospital and had been exposed to a broad range of departments, which I enjoyed, but it took me away from fundraising. I enjoyed my years as a hospital staff development professional, but it was no longer driving me. The life of an outside consultant was beginning to seem like an enticing possibility. To make a long story short, I became a consultant and began a new life."
As a consultant, my focus is to raise very large gifts from high-end prospects. I learned to shoot for the stars and not be distracted by those who are not familiar with raising large quantities of money.
I plan my work and work my plan. During my career, it became evident that upwards of 90% of all money raised will come from as little as 10 % of the prospects. Therefore, I focus on the 10%. I learned to be vigilant helping my clients stay on course by securing the highest and largest gifts early in a campaign because others will be drawn to higher gifts. Finally, I have learned to always be myself. Learn from others but never forget who you are.
The gifts don’t always come to you. You must go to them with the leadership leverage that’s required to maximize the gift. You have got to be relentless in your pursuit. Always preach the need as well as what the gift will mean to your institution and especially how it can change people's minds for the better. Don’t be shy, ask for the stretch gift after you have done your homework. Remember, you can have fun in this business, especially after a successful asking process that results in a leadership gift that nobody but you thought could happen."
Custom Development Solutions, Inc. (CDS) is one of the most sought after fundraising consulting firms specializing in the strategic planning and tactical execution of capital campaigns for non-profits throughout the United States and Canada. If you have a fundraising question, please call CDS at 800-761-3833 or send an email to email@example.com.