What’s Your Answer?

Grateful Person

By Laurence A. Pagnoni, MPA

When someone asks you, or when you ask yourself, “Why are you a fundraiser?” what do you say?

There are many possible answers to this question.

For me, I am a fundraiser because I believe the nonprofit sector can do a lot more to reduce poverty; so I raise funds toward achieving that aim, toward securing the necessary capital for designing and implementing anti-poverty policies and program solutions. With Gandhi, I believe that “Poverty is the worst form of violence.” That’s why I’m a fundraiser, and why I’m also committed to the constant improvement of my vocation. I wrote more about what a fundraiser does at this blog post.

What’s your answer?

Why It Matters

Knowing your answer really does matter.

Knowing why you’re a fundraiser matters because your answer informs the goals and resolutions you set for your life and career.

Your answer is the reason you want to accomplish your goals in the first place.

Your thoughtful answer will drive you to achieve your goals during both good times and bad. Especially during periods of struggle, when the going gets tough. Keeping your long-term answer front and center will provide the motivation you need to keep going. In fact, it will keep you on the path to improving your skills.

Many fundraisers don’t have a deep and thoughtful answer to this question. They often took a fundraising job because it paid better than others, or because no one else wanted the job. That’s the brutal fact. If that’s the case, now that you have the position, can you make a vocational commitment to it? Can you live into an answer that’s deeper than your original one?

Your answer should be very personal to you. It’s the reason you, specifically, wish to accomplish your goal. It’s imperative that your answer be meaningful to you, rather than something pushed upon you by an outside force. What someone else wants for you, or what you think you should want, isn’t sufficient to sustain your fundraising work.

Write down your answer for wanting to be a fundraiser. Revise it and update it as needed. Expand and elaborate upon its importance. Imagine what things will be like when you achieve your goal. Place post-it notes where you can see them, as visual reminders of what you want most to accomplish. Spend time with like-minded folks who are trying to achieve the same thing. You can motivate each other and hold yourselves accountable.

Can Your Answer Change?

My answer has changed many times in my 45 year career, but the fundamentals behind it have been consistent. For example, when I helped the Shore Line Trolley Museum raise $2.5 million, their first major fundraising campaign ever, and preserve 200+ years of US transportation engineering, it wasn’t about poverty. But it was consistent with a mission that I believed in. I transferred my technical skills to align with that nonprofit’s passion and learned a lot along the way.

Sometimes we take fundraising jobs and/or assignments that seem to be outside of our core concerns. Yet hidden jewels of experience emerge from these assignments that may enhance our original, central answer to the fundraising question. In the case of the Shoreline Trolley Museum, I refined my community engagement skills by helping them develop a vibrant Community Leadership Council, which recruited more than 50 community leaders to support the museum. Their work won two Connecticut state bonds along the way worth millions of dollars. That experience deepened my fundraising skills.

If you’re faced with a job or assignment that seems to stray from your core answer, be open to the hidden treasures the experience may hold for you, and then see if it was worth it. There have been of course many assignments that I felt were not a fit for me, and I turned them down.

Share with us below your thoughts about why you’re a fundraiser. Inquiring minds want to know! Please also share this post with a colleague who may find it helpful. If you’re still not sure why you’re a fundraiser, send me a message and we’ll set a time to talk it over.

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