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My Work Journey Part 2

In part 1 of my development journey, I shared about my first job in development and what it was like interviewing for and accepting a job halfway across the country. 
 
In 2008, just three years into my career, I became the development director for the St. Thomas More Newman Center at The Ohio State University. Cheryl and I were excited for the opportunity but a bit nervous to pack up and move all the way to Ohio. 
 
Funny story, we used a moving company and I had in my mind that they would load our furniture into a truck and drive straight to our new place. Well, as it turns out, they had two other stops on the way so we moved into our temporary apartment with our travel suitcases, our two dogs and whatever we brought with us in the car. It took about a week and a half for the rest of our belongings to make it to us so to give us a place to sit, our first purchase was a Walmart futon which served as our couch, bed and dining table for about 10 days. Lesson learned, right?
 
Despite the wrinkle with the move, I was eager and very excited to dive into my work. That first year was a bit of a blur but I was thrilled to see so many foundational components already in place. We had a communication and appeal schedule, a fantastic Leadership Council, a dynamic and capable staff, and quite a few really devoted donors and supporters. Eager for a win, I pretty quickly put plans in place for our first Matching Collection Weekend. 
 
Sunday collections were typically around $12,000 each week so I set a goal of finding $25,000 in matching dollars from parishioners and alumni to challenge the community for a big fundraising initiative. Unfortunately, I did not have the relationships to secure a single gift of that size so we pivoted to Plan B. I made a list and began asking for gifts between $1,000-5,000. After a few weeks, we had brought together six families who collectively committed $21,000 in matching gifts. 
 
We set our date and planned out the communications. It was an exciting time as I felt extremely confident that this program would work but until you do it, there’s a lot of anticipation and consternation. I had the idea to invite our six families to join us in Fr. Larry’s rectory the Tuesday after our planned Matching Collection Weekend to announce the results to them ahead of telling the rest of the community. This made me incredibly nervous as there would be no hiding from a poor or even mediocre response. 
 
So Tuesday night came and everyone was assembled. We all got our drinks and started chit chatting but it wasn't long before everyone was asking about the results. The moment of truth was here. 
 
To everyone's immense excitement, I was thrilled to be able to tell them that not only had we hit our goal, but we blew it out of the water. In total, our ridiculously generous community gave over $50,000 that weekend PLUS annual gifts from our new monthly donors totaled another $54,000. Factoring in the $21,000 match, we had a Matching Collection Weekend of OVER $120,000! I can still remember the cheer that went up from that small group when we announced the results. As the first big initiative in my new role, these numbers put me over the moon! 
 
I continued my work and we had a number of other big and small wins over the following three years. We had the president of the University, Dr. Gordon Gee come speak to our students three times. We launched the Mustard Seed Cafe, an outdoor cafe on football weekends that raised money for our feeding ministries. We started an endowment fund. All in all, it was a wonderful time and it all started with that first win at the Matching Collection Weekend. 
 
After three years, I was feeling really good but also started to feel an itch to be closer to family. We had our first daughter in 2009 and wanted to find a way to be closer to one of our families (my family lived in Texas and Cheryl’s was in New Jersey). I wasn’t actively looking for a new job, but was starting to feel open if something presented itself. 
 
Well, over Spring Break in 2011, we traveled to Texas for a few days of vacation. While I was there, I received a call from a friend of mine telling me about a job opportunity at the Texas A&M College of Medicine. I emailed the contact and said that I might be interested. He invited me to come meet with them. I told him that I could come the next day but the only shoes that I brought were my cowboy boots. He immediately responded that they would love to have me and boots were totally acceptable. Whew! 
 
I had a great interview and really felt good about the opportunity. We parted ways with a promise to be in contact the following week. I couldn’t believe how quickly things were moving but I was eager for the opportunity. 
 
Well, as things turned out, the university had just implemented a hiring freeze so they would not be able to offer me a position until summer at the earliest. Dang! 
 
The next few months were tough. In agreeing to meet and after getting excited about the possibility of working for my alma mater, I struggled to maintain my motivation at work. Paired with that was a leadership transition at the Newman Center. Fr. Larry had been selected to serve in a leadership position with the Paulist Fathers and I had a new boss. Fr. Joe was great but had a different outlook regarding the growth plans of the Newman Center. But work continued and we kept the wins coming. 
 
As it turned out, the Texas state legislature voted in Summer of 2011 to lift the hiring freeze and I received another call from the medical school. They offered me a great position with a higher salary that could start in October. My wife and I discussed it and decided this was a move worth making. I said my goodbyes and thank yous for a fantastic three years and started packing again, eager for a new challenge. 
 
In Part 3, I will share about transitioning from ministry to the university and the joys and challenges that came with that. If you want to share your story with me or have questions that I might be able to help answer, hit me up at [email protected]. I would love to visit. God bless.
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