Moments That Inspire
When you face reality, you have a very difficult job. As a nonprofit pro, you must carry a large bag of tricks in your daily sack. When I say tricks, I do not mean negative or secretive elements. I mean tools of the trade that you acquire over the years. You can read all of the “how-to” books in the world, but you gain how-to’s on the job. Theory is very nice to have if it is best of class, but how can you fail over time if your experience and gut rules?
We all are visual learners and learn through enduring the good and bad moments of a career. Your success is dedicated in part by the environment in which you reside. If you have made poor career choices, you will find yourself a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. You receive total satisfaction if you believe you are a fit for the institution and institutional leadership feels the same.
Before I became a pro, I was a green rookie. I did not know what development or philanthropy meant at a deeper level. Through hard knocks and a variety of other means I became comfortable with each job. It was a building block approach as I attempted to build on each position I experienced. In every position I experienced joy and frustration.
Like all humans we tend to forget or put aside negative situations and rejoice in the inspirational moments. Some examples of my inspired moments include:
- Seeing a donor cry for joy after making a sizable gift because it felt so good to help others
- A volunteer looking me in the eye and saying, “Because of you, I am all in.”
- A donor who made a large bequest to an institution and said, “I have three sons and your charity will be my fourth son.”
- My seven-year-old daughter, when asked what I do for a living, saying, “You are Robin Hood.”
- When leaving a job, having a volunteer give me a framed poem entitled “Bridge Builder,” because in her mind that is what I did
- A new board chair who just replaced a chair that passed away brings into his first meeting a pair of the former board chair’s shoes saying he cannot fill his shoes
- Having dinner with a consultant that I would later work for and my board chair when the chair decided to write an inspirational book based upon his life
- Receiving a Sagamore of the Wabash Award from the state of Indiana as a result of what others thought I did to inspire
- Having a foundation executive director ask me to direct a major international capital campaign in a consulting role when I never served as a consultant before
- When I starting crying when a board chair was leaving the board through term limits I helped create. We had a unique relationship.
In a non-professional moment, I have been inspired by jumping out of a plane with my son and other police officers, zip lining in a foreign country over mountains and then water, standing alone in the front of a large catamaran during a heavy storm feeling the rain, holding a baseball tournament championship trophy in my final coaching moment with my eight-year-old grandson, and the list goes on.
Trust me, in this business I have had moments that inspire, plus moments that have challenged my ability and desire to stay in this profession. On the whole, I have received thousands of positive moments seeing how time, talent and treasure affect those we constantly serve. When you are having a thoughtful day, think of your inspirational list.
Winston Churchill stated that, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” When a single, unwed, financially broke nurse who has three young children comes to a stage crying and kisses you and whispers thanks in my ear because a donor gave her scholarship money to go to nursing school, you say to yourself, “What an inspirational moment.” Thank you for your moments that inspire others.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.