Monday, April 21, 2014

BIG’s Blog: Guest Blog: “I’m ready - are you?”

Anne Marie Gardiner is the Development Director of a Catholic community called The Passionists. Just like many of you, she has been “in the fundraising business” for a few years. Unlike way too many in fundraising today, Anne Marie embraces change as just the on-going evolution of our industry.

In her own words …

My first job in development was 27 years ago.  I was a travel agent and got laid off because of the increase in airline deregulation and the increase of travelers making their own reservations.  A client, who was a priest, offered me a job in a new office he was opening “doing development work.”  I took the job “until something better came along.”

Fast forward and here I am, Director of Development for a religious organization.  Coincidently, my whole career has been working with men or women in religious congregations.  I have literally worked my way up. I started recording donations on index cards before databases, and assembled bulk mailings in back rooms with volunteers. Now, many, many trays of presorted (in zip code order, of course!) mail later, I am still in Development work.

I have had many wonderful mentors along the way as well as many roadblocks.  I have seen the industry grow by leaps and bounds, especially for the organizations wise enough to embrace and accept the challenge to change and not get caught up in doing things the way they have always been done. I was also fortunate in persuading the leadership in these organizations to move along with the technology so we could be on the “cutting edge” of fundraising trends.

I think the biggest change in attitude I have been witness to and a part of the last several years is, for the most part, religious organizations and other nonprofits have finally come to grips with accepting the fact that we are “running a business,” but the on-going question I always have is, “how do you effectively market a ministry?”

Throughout my career we “marketed” our ministries through direct mail, and of late we have begun to market online. With our direct mail programs, we used all the technologies and techniques as they developed to reduce our costs and mail “smarter.” As digital tools began to appear we work very hard to coordinate what’s in the mail and what’s on the website. We “look” the same no matter where you see us. We see our online giving slowly building. But gone are the days of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.  Just like the early days of direct mail, if you’re not committed to an online program, just as we were committed to change in our early direct mail program, someone else will do a better job and catch the interest of your constituents.

There’s room for all of us in fundraising, but only those who are looking into the future and are serious about change will survive.  I’m ready-are you?

Encouraging words … right?

Anne Marie not only went through our program herself, but she brought her CFO, key staff, and members of her community. Change requires buy-in as well as becoming a mentor yourself.  

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