This month’s Fundraiser of the Month is John Boyle! I will be highlighting a different fundraiser every month and asking them to talk about what makes them good at what they do. Last month I highlighted Patrick Sallee. Feel free to refer someone you know of that’s a great fundraiser in the comments section below.
What kind of fundraising do you do and who do you do it for?
I’m an Associate Director of Development for the Children’s Hospital Foundation in Washington, D.C. The Foundation is the fundraising arm of Children’s National Medical Center, one of the top children’s hospitals in the country. I focus on donors who have made high-end direct mail gifts and who may consider a major gift in the future. I also direct the Foundation’s online giving initiative.
What keeps you going? Why do you keep working in development?
What keeps me going? Our mission, of course! My life was saved by a similar institution when I was less than a year old, so I know just how important philanthropic investment in pediatric healthcare truly is.
As for why I keep working in development, there are a hundred reasons. But the first one that comes to mind is seeing that glow in donors after they’ve written that check or signed that gift agreement. It’s pride, excitement and more all rolled into one. There’s nothing quite like it.
What tips/advice do you have to other fundraisers in your field?
Even if you have a dedicated researcher, make sure that in advance of a call or a visit to a new prospect, do a quick online search of him or her. Even if they’re not connected to potential treasure-troves of information such as LinkedIn or Facebook, spending a few minutes on Google can give you great nuggets of information that can really drive your relationship. Oh, and make sure that you understand Boolean search mechanics so you can get the most out of your searches!
What is the most frustrating or difficult thing about fund development?
Knowing that I probably won’t be here (at Children’s National) 20 years from now when some of the young donors I’ve worked with reach their ultimate goal and make the institution-transforming gifts that I know they’ll someday make.
Do you have any memorable donor visits or solicitations that you’d like to share?
While having an in-depth conversation during a discovery visit at a donor’s home, the donor’s toddler daughter climbed up on my lap and insisted that I read her favorite book to her. Switching immediately from steward to storyteller (complete with voices), I completed my task a few minutes later, whereupon she promptly climbed down, and toddled off. Pausing only to make sure that I was still dry, her mother and I switched back from talk of happy animals to peer solicitation. It was surreal and yet perfectly natural at the same time.
What is next for the world of fundraising?
I’ll be curious to see how our industry approaches the youngest generation of donors, the “Millennials,” as they come of age. Thanks to factors such as increased community-service requirements within their schools and the advent of online giving, I believe that their non-profit involvement and philanthropic giving has started earlier than that of the Boomers, or Gen Xers. At the same time, we’re going to have to move faster than ever before to keep their attention and to form meaningful bonds.