Tuesday, March 14, 2006

 

Know Thyself

I am a fundraiser.

This is a fact that took me awhile to be able to admit. In grade school, I wanted to be an astronaut or an archeologist. In high school, I wished to be a general manager of a professional sports team. In college, well, I didn't worry too much about it. That is until I realized in April of my senior year that I probably could not have a career as "Fraternity President." The lack of responsibility and bills was going to end extremely soon and I should probably attempt to grow up and get a job. Reality hits hard.

One thing I did not want to be was a fundraiser. It isn't cool. You can't talk about it with your friends. Say the words "LYBUNT" or "Five-Year Pledge" to someone and watch their reaction. Seriously, try it. It's really amusing. The title of "fundraiser" is not something that one aspires to attain while growing up.

Astronaut? Yes.

Fighter Pilot? Yup.

Third baseman for the Indians? Absolutely.

Assistant Director of Annual Giving? Nope.

It can be a lonely position. When I introduce myself to people and begin to chat, they inevitably ask what I do for a living or they look at my name badge (at OWU events) and see "Assistant Director of Annual Giving." Then one of two events occur:

1. they immediately excuse themselves and walk away, whispering to the people they pass that the "Money Guy" is coming,
2. or they say "you're not going to ask me for money, are you?" with a nervous laugh.

In some cases, I could probably say that I have a bad case of SARS and receive a warmer reception. At least then I'll receive pity. I have even used my chosen profession to my advantage to get out of conversations:

Stranger: "...and that is how I make a green bean casserole. Let me tell you about my method for cross-stitching..."

Me: "I work in Annual Giving."

Stranger: "Excuse me, I need to be going."

Despite myself, I have grown to love my job, my profession, and the nonprofit industry. The people I have met and the connections that I have made in my first five years will stay with me forever. I am always surprised and uplifted by the generosity of giving, no matter the level. I like the push toward reaching a goal. I enjoy meeting people and helping them to realize their love of philanthropy.

I also enjoy the free food that I procure from events.

Our OWU volunteers have had the same experiences as I when they call on their classmates. Some people immediately give, some hang up, some become defensive, some avoid the subject like the Black Plague. But that doesn't stop our volunteers. They know what they do is important. As any OWU volunteer will attest, a donor is not a client or a means to an end. A donor is a friend that has the same goals that I have for OWU.

The next time an OWU student or volunteer calls, remember that these people have a great love for their institution- enough that they are willing to do something that a majority of people will not do.

And the next time that you see me, please don't walk away from me because of my position. My self-confidence can't take much more.

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