Today I’m happy to share our second story from a Wild Woman Fundraising reader about how we came to fundraising.

This one is from Emily Chalker Lane, who is a Development Associate in Major Gifts at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Florida. Emily_LaneIn her own words:

I think I was destined for a fundraising career since childhood. Of course I sold Girl Scout cookies back in the 60s, when door-to-door was still safe! But it didn’t stop there – I was the kid that visited my neighbors with a little can in my hand to solicit money for the Heart Association, Cancer Society, and just about every other charity that had an annual door-to-door campaign. I think they all learned to hide behind the couch when they saw me coming up the street!


In high school, my church youth group did the usual bake sales and carwashes – but we also piled into pickup trucks every December (after a fortifying meal of burgers and hot chocolate) and went door to door Christmas caroling and collecting donations of food, clothing, and cash for “the needy.” (I’m not sure where those donations went, but this was one of my favorite fundraising campaigns ever, and we brought back a LOT of stuff because every kid in town wanted to participate!)


My first career was in radio – I was a “deejay” at several popular stations, and I often found myself doing a remote at the local mall and begging passersby to give to whatever the cause-du-jour was – animal rescue, a new library, and of course the ever-present “needy.”


Then I transitioned to writing and producing commercials, honing those persuasive writing skills I’d picked up in obtaining my Journalism degree. And I continued to be active at my church to raise money for various causes over those years.


I think serendipity was at play when, in an effort to escape the ego-driven world of commercial radio, I landed a  secretarial job at the Smithsonian Office of Development. I had no earthly idea what a Development office did! I just wanted an entry-level job at an organization I admired – but I felt right at home the minute I arrived.


The rest was history. Promoted in six months to a more meaningful position, I was there for a joyous five years and learned a bundle about best fundraising practices before moving on to do prospect research, then database management, then membership, eventually finding myself in charge of the Annual Fund. All those childhood fund drives, the countless ads I wrote in my radio career, and the bleeding heart that drove my childhood fundraising efforts made me a natural for both face-to-face and annual fundraising…and I’ve never looked back.


Today, I work at a small nonprofit where I have the delightful challenge of doing it all: Annual Fund, donor societies, legacy giving, capital campaigns, major giving, grant writing – and all the strategy that goes along with every aspect of development. I thrive on it. I love people, I’m a first-class bleeding heart with a passion for my cause, I adore those moments of victory, and I try to learn from the crushing defeats. I’m in for the long run. And, even on the worst of days, I love what I do. Because it means something. And THAT is what keeps me going strong after 25 years!

If you’d like to learn more about how to get into fundraising or rise in your fundraising career, come to our virtual fundraising career conference April 13th-15th!

Fundraising Career Virtual Conference