When I was in college, I never dreamed that I would end up in a career as a professional fundraiser. To be completely honest, I didn’t know that that profession even existed. I thought I would be an attorney, and had big plans to go on to law school after graduation. I took a year off to study for the LSAT and took a job as a legal secretary at a law firm to get a feel for what the profession of law was all about. After a few months of working as a legal secretary, I realized that being an attorney wasn’t for me. I realized that it took a long time to make real social change through the legal system and I didn’t know if I had the patience for that. I wanted to be part of something that was greater than myself… to make an impact and create social change for the better TODAY, not years from now. Eight years after graduation, I now find myself in a position that does just that, albeit in an indirect way.
My job as a fundraiser is fulfilling in many ways. It allows me to spread the word about the amazing work that Roadrunner does and be a voice and advocate for a forgotten and voiceless community… the hungry people living throughout New Mexico. My job as a fundraiser allows me to dispel myths (and there are many) about who is hungry and communicate the devastating and long lasting effects of hunger on a person and community. My job as a fundraiser allows me to inspire others to give a portion of their hard-earned income to help feed our hungry neighbors and create a better more vibrant community. This is perhaps the most interesting and challenging aspect of my work as a fundraiser. I have often wondered what it is that motivates people to give away their hard earned money for little or nothing in return, and a big part of my job is to figure out just that.
When talking to our donors, I have found that people are motivated by a lot of things. Some people give for religious reasons and simply believe that charitable giving is the right thing to do. Some people give because they or someone they know were once in a position where they needed help and now feel compelled to pay it forward and help others who are now in need. Some people give because they care deeply about specific population such as children, seniors, single parents, etc. Some people give because the need the tax write-offs. I believe and empirical data suggests that most people give because it makes them feel good.
For many, what motivates their giving is private. While the work of the charity is important, it’s not what drives their giving. What drives their giving is what they experience privately, inside their heart. These benefits are unique to each donor and are often hard to articulate. I realized that the same thing that motivated me to take a job as a fundraiser, is the same kind of feeling that motivates donors. I wasn’t motivated by the pay or the work itself, I was motivated by the resulting feeling inside of giving however I can and until it feels great!
One recent donor, PNM, told us they provided a matching gift to inspire giving by the community and double the impact of those giving a gift tot he Food Bank. For the past two years and during the month of December, PNM has matched every contribution we received up to $32,000. While the holidays are always a time of charity, the PNM match really inspired new donors and current donors to reach out and give or givie a little extra.
I am by no means an expert and continue to learn more and more about why people give every working day. Despite what many of us may think, my job as a fundraiser has taught me that people have good hearts and really do care about one another. People do care about the community they live in want it to be a better place. I have learned that the majority of people are generous and once they make a connection with a non-profit or find a cause they are passionate about, they will give as much as they can and give until it feels good…or perhaps give until it feels great!
Donna Marlow is the Strategic Giving Manager at Roadrunner Food Bank.