The Closet Fundraiser — It's Time to Officially Come Out
[Editor’s note: For six years, Dane Grams has served on the FundRaising Success Editorial Advisory Board — the last two as co-chair. He is stepping down at the end of this year to serve on the Direct Marketing Fundraising Association Board. We hope he will remain a regular contributor.]
Nearly 20 years ago to the day, I embarked on my nonprofit fundraising career when I walked into the offices of Greenpeace USA and started as the assistant to the director of development. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I was ready to learn. Or was I? The truth is, I was asking myself, “How the heck did I end up here?” I had ambitions of being a lawyer! I had just finished school, had no money left and, frankly, needed a job. So I put my three years of work-study in the annual fund office to good use on my résumé. And so it began … the journey of an accidental fundraiser.
Here I was, in this unplanned job. And to make matters worse, it wasn’t long before I started to feel the stigma — fundraising seemed to be a dirty word. Inside the organization I felt shunned by the more glamorous program staff, out on boats saving whales. Outside the organization I felt the heavy-handed poke of angry donors who we called too much, mailed too much. It seemed like everyone had it in for me.
Moving to the Human Rights Campaign wasn’t any better. There always seemed to be a tension among the communications team members. Even worse, people expected us to raise money without spending any — like dollars just fell off of trees. The nerve. And the gays. The gays were even more annoyed than the environmentalists. Then came e-mail and social networking … and instant feedback! Oy.