Meet Our Advisors: Dane Grams, online strategy director, HRC
Dane Grams, online strategy director for the Human Rights Campaign, which works for the equal rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Americans, didn’t grow up aspiring to be a fundraiser. The career just kind of found him. And, don’t expect him to walk away from it any time soon.
Read on to learn more about Grams, a member of the FundRaising Success Editorial Advisory Board.
Grew up in: Egg Harbor City, N.J. — just outside of Atlantic City.
Education: Graduated from American University in Washington, D.C.
First fundraising job and previous positions: “My first fundraising job was assistant to the director of development for Greenpeace, but I also served as telemarketing manager and direct-marketing manager. At HRC, I have been deputy director of annual giving, director of annual giving and now online strategy director. I also owned my own consulting firm for a few years.”
Why he chose fundraising as a career: “Just like many of your readers, I fell into it. The Accidental Fundraiser. By the time I was finished college, I had more hours of work-study time in the development office than I did toward my degree.”
Best advice for fundraisers: “This industry is as much about instinct as anything else. If you have an idea you believe in, sell it. Build buy-in with key stakeholders and senior staff. Utilize outsiders — colleagues in the industry, consultants and case studies. Bottom-line it — What’s the cost? What’s the return? And don’t give up too easily — perseverance and persistence will prevail.”
Biggest challenges facing fundraisers today: “I have to say it: ‘It’s the economy, stupid.’ Problem is, I am not sure I really believe it. While the economy is, without a doubt, having some impact on our industry, I think our bigger challenge is convincing people (our boards, our senior staff) to weather the storm, not to be so quick to cut back, especially on things like prospecting and donor cultivation — two of the first things to go during tough times. Also, another challenge is the ability to keep up with new technologies.”
Best part of being a fundraiser: “Watching all that money being put to good use.”
What you’d be doing if you weren’t raising money for a good cause: “At this point, I will go to my grave doing this. When I’m not working, I’m running.”
The key to fundraising success for HRC:
1. Trust from the top.
2. Flexibility and quick reflexes.
3. Always staying on the cutting edge.
4. Diversity of revenue streams.
5. Sustainer giving.
Proudest moment in fundraising: “First, being part of the capital campaign team that opened HRC’s permanent headquarters in the heart of Washington, D.C. And second, watching HRC’s low-dollar monthly giving program, which was barely on the radar when I started at HRC in 1997, blossom into a half-million dollar per month powerhouse.”
Heroes/role models: “I have two fundraising heroes: David Lemos, my first boss at Greenpeace, who passed away from AIDS many years ago. He gave me an amazing opportunity in this industry and taught me everything he knew before he died. And Cathy Nelson, vice president of membership and development at HRC. She is a true unsung hero in the gay-rights movement, and she really molded and polished who I am today.”
Favorite quote: “When you help others, you can’t help helping yourself.” “The Money Song” from Avenue Q
Describe yourself in three words: “Passionate, daring and sometimes a little stubborn.”