First off, Paul, I’m sorry. I am sorry I put a halo of stormtrooper helmets around your head. But you started it with the lightsaber picture. You know it’s going to end with wookies in metal bikinis.
Paul is an instructor on planned giving at Georgian College in Toronto. He’s also a philanthropic advisor at Scotia Private Client Group. Read more on Linkedin, this is his blog, here’s his book blog, and you can also follow him on Twitter. And he has a google site too.
I know this is a big question, but here it is, how do you think the American and Canadian fundraising environments are different?
They are different in so many ways. For one, the USA is older and a more sophisticated developed fundraising climate is the result. Culture as always is a factor, that aw-shucks Canadian RCMP vs. the cowboy gunslinging FBI is a perfect example of a culture difference. The way we fundraise is the same difference. Lastly the role of government and taxes is a big factor. Canadians aren’t as hostile to a bigger government and trust that their taxes are being used for proper social safety net building has been a difference for a long time. The current Canadian government who JUST won in a historic landslide however is quickly changing that attitude.
How did you get started in college fundraising?
I started fundraising with a national faith-based charity, Scarboro Missions. The American counterpart would be Mary Knoll . My start like many is that I fell into it. Did not consider it as a career option. My core focus was that I actually disliked the fundraising methods and climate of both my faith and my University. One was not strategic and one was too aggressive. I set out to find a middle path and found “planned giving!”
What do you think is different about working in a college development office versus a small development office?
The University of Toronto is Canada’s largest University, the Harvard of the North. Working in fundraising there was like being part of a large army. A small development office was much more dynamic, nimble and personally driven. It was however, great to have team support and resources at a University though.
What do you like about your job?
My current job has me helping Canadians give to every charity in Canada! It is a fascinating position that gives me great satisfaction, the solution-focus and the whole “fulfilling dreams” element of it is often overwhelmingly emotional.
What advice do you have for people who have been fired from fundraising jobs?
Ugh. I meet many every month. I was once in this position when my “contract wasn’t renewed” after it had been for four years without complaint. It can be devastating however it’s important to get to the root of the termination and learn where possible. With several peers when we get down to the root it has very little to do with them, and although it isn’t comforting to be out of a job they at least know it wasn’t their lack of skills, drive or care for the cause.
What’s the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network like where you live? Is there a lot of engagement? Good seminars?
The network isn’t the same as in the USA. Frankly there was a lack of focus on this group until a dynamic fundraising consulting firm named Stephen Thomas said “It’s time to do this and we’ll lead the way”. I can’t applaud them enough for making the move: and my response.
What’s one of the things you wish you could change about the fundraising world?
Two main things:
1) The terrible culture of disposable professionals and jobs. We talk about “building relationships” with donors but the average fundraiser isn’t staying for over 24 months. Often it’s because of boards with unrealistic goals and/or terrible bosses. Some say it’s because fundraisers always want more money, this is true because the profession does not often pay a living or comparative wage.
(ED:In my experience fundraisers do NOT always want more money, but they do want more RECOGNITION for the work they’re doing. And they want everyone to pitch in. And that doesn’t happen. Because of the disposable culture, which I have written more about here.. Thanks for bringing this up, Paul!)
2) The terrible culture of bad management and lack of accountability. People are promoted in fundraising because they can raise money, not manage people and it often results in people managing when they shouldn’t be doing so. For their own good as much as others.
Do you have any advice for people who would like to become college fundraisers? Anything they should specialize in? How do you break into this world?
My advice is the same for ANY profession. Start building your plan now, know what employers you’d like to work for and go after them. Ask a sector leader for 15 minutes over coffee and ask them what they feel you should be doing with the next five years of your life to get you closer to their success. This is why I read so many management and business books.
As for specializing in fundraising, yes it’s good to specialize by your strengths. Events, major gifts, planned giving, stewardship, paper work, face to face and phone work are all considerations. This is where working in a smaller shop as the jack of all trades is helpful. You get to test out all the roles.
What’s something you know now that you wish you knew when you started fundraising?
The top people in the profession are more approachable than I thought. I was intimidated by the local Chair of the AFP, years later I called her up for a coffee and she was so helpful! Reaching out to others is so important.
Also, everyone says, get out from behind the desk. Face to face is where it’s at. They were always right but each employer gives us less and less time with them.
(Get out from behind the desk, all the better to brandish your lightsaber? OF TRUTH?! Touche Paul. Touche.)
PS. You know who’s so rad? Christina Attard. Canadian planned giver extraordinaire! Because she blogged here, and also, she connected me to her friend Paul Nazareth! Who lives in Toronto, and who also does Planned Giving! Thank you Christina! Now this is an even more international blog! (Although, it kind of already is, because, as a point of interest, my dad’s dad was born in Canada, and got naturalized as an American citizen later. Am I 1/4th Canadian? Shh!)