It started this way, “The questions that loom large as you navigate a college education are: What’s next? What career, what advanced degrees, where to start?”
That was the opening paragraph of a very short piece I contributed to my alma mater for A Patriot’s Guide to Success. It was a few paragraphs intended for the freshman class of the University of Texas at Tyler. The small hardback book, chock full of the wisdom of many community leaders and businesspeople, was given to every first-year student at UT Tyler’s Career Success Conference in September.
Fast forward to a November afternoon following a Philanthropy Day luncheon, and I find myself still reflecting on two questions. “What’s next? Where to start?”
No one could have predicted that I would end my college career and immediately begin a nonprofit career that has now spanned forty years. Those two questions have been answered over time but I still ask them and answer them repeatedly on my journey.
Forty years in the nonprofit sector. Forty years of working with donors and philanthropists, first as I sought donations for the East Texas Crisis Center and then as I worked with family foundations, individual donors and companies to further their philanthropic impact. Forty years of lessons learned. Forty years of “What’s Next? And Where to Start?”
40 Years of Lessons Learned
- All giving is connected by an almost invisible thread that runs between the nonprofit organization and the donor. The thread may be visible only to the donor, only to the few around them, only to the organization. If you look close enough you can see giving fingerprints on every nonprofit organization.
- Often, that same invisible thread runs right through the mission of the organization. Nonprofit organizations need all kinds of donors with all kinds of interests. The donors who mean the most are those who give because of the mission, those who understand the mission.
- Giving is best when it lives on a two-way street. Communication between the donor and the nonprofit organization improves the gift for both.
- Giving is mostly individual– one donor, one organization – and the journey is about learning to be a better giver- one fundraiser, one check, one planned gift at a time. The learning is over time and the longer we give, the smarter we give.
- Giving is most often greatest when done together. Donors rarely make impactful gifts alone – although sometimes we are witness to, and grateful for such gifts. Most often, impact comes from donors giving together to accomplish something significant.
I am grateful for the last forty years on a philanthropy journey I didn’t plan or study for – I didn’t expect. And I look forward to the future and what I will learn as I ask and answer the questions all over again.
The Last Lesson Learned
- Learning about giving is never done alone, even if I give alone. So, I treasure friendships with those on similar philanthropy journeys and what we learn together.
What lessons are you learning on your philanthropy journey? What’s next for your philanthropy journey? Where will you start?
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