When Your Purpose is Bigger than You!
When I worked at an United Way agency in Communications Department, I was introduced to fund raising. Once I learned about United Way’s Campaign Department, I was intrigued by the idea of raising money for nonprofit organizations. Immediately, I decided that I wanted to work in fund raising. So, on my journey to becoming a fundraiser, I didn’t realize that I was naïve and unrealistic as an African American woman, but I was determined to pursue my new purpose in life!
A Few Stops on the Way!
Eventually, I would be hired as an event coordinator for a major university’s development office. Although I was hired as an event coordinator, I was still excited because I was on a fund-raising staff. After I joined major university’s development office, I attended my first fund-raising conference, and I was amazed that I was the only conference attendee of color. Each time that I entered a conference room for a session, someone would ask if I needed help. Apparently, I had to be lost and should have been at another conference in the hotel and on a different floor. Finally, I started holding my conference badge in my hand and flashed my badge as soon as I walked into each room at the start of a session. The fact that I was the only conference attendee of color did not deter me and only made me more determined to become a bona fide fund-raiser.
Moving on up!
After serving almost 5 years on major university’s development staff and receiving a promotion as Director of Donor Relations, I was on the perimeters and still was not responsible for raising funds on behalf of the university. Due to my attention to detail, creativity, and writing skills, I was well-respected by administrators from the president of the university to the chancellor of the medical school, and I was included on visits to major donors and was assigned major donors to manage. Although I loved every minute of working at major university except for a few incidents of harassment by a blonde white girl, I did not have a title as a fundraiser and decided it was time to move! I attended a conference that was JUST for minorities, who worked in fund raising, and as a result of attending the conference, I was offered a position at a HBCU. So, I thought that my career was headed in the right direction; however, I went from being on 10th floor of a skyscraper downtown in a major city to driving past cows in a pasture in a little town. I went from an office that had a mahogany credential, desk, chair, conference room table and chairs to sharing space with a microwave oven at HBCU. I was on a fund-raising staff but was crushed that my new fund-raising job did not have the same status as a staffer at a major university!
Staying the Course
Eventually, I would land in College of Business at the HBCU as a fundraiser and finally, I thought that I was on my way! The position in College of Business was one of the highlights of my professional career; not as a fundraiser but as a mentor to College of Business students. My home became a home-far-away-from-home for many students. I cooked dinners for female students and often made very, very small loans to male students, who wanted to buy gas or baby formula or diapers. Sometimes it would take entire semester but male students always paid me back and then, I would give money back to the male students because they followed through on their commitment. My washer and dyer ran constantly at my home because as many as three female students would wash and dry their clothes on the weekend. I loved being a mother-hen to all that would let me. My husband would ask each semester how many students had I planned to adopt. My children became exposed to college students, who had aspirations of achievement. One of my sons had favorites and those were students, who did not inform me of his questionable behavior.
My career would still take a few detours but I did not give up, such as working at a few places that I don’t even include on my resume. But those obscure fund raising jobs started a new journey that lead to writing a quantitative thesis. You guessed it! I wrote almost 200-page thesis on fund raising. Sometimes, it is better to look out into this huge world and declare that you are going to pursue something! Just imagine, my journey began with looking at all of United Way campaign department’s fund-raising activities to being only conference attendee of color to sharing an office with a microwave to adding to the knowledge base of fund-raising and subject-matter expertise on donor relations, Stewardship: a critical step in the fund-raising process!
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