By Tara Doyon, Petrus Director of Client Services and Senior Consultant
Like many in a development-related profession, I had planned on a career in “something else.” When money was needed for organizations and programs that I cared about, I discovered and honed my development skills.
Growing up, I was active in the local YMCA and taught swimming. After college graduation with a degree in recreation and park administration, I moved from the Midwest to Hartford, Connecticut to work for the Y there. Unlike the YMCA of my hometown, this Y served those in the inner city and faced great financial challenges. All employees were expected to participate in the fundraising effort.
My first experience in fundraising was a phone-a-thon for that Y in the 1990s. We had a list of people, and we cold-called them. We talked about our great programs, and asked them to make a gift. To keep us motivated, the Y recognized callers for their results. Competitive by nature, I was good at this! My toughest competition was Ron, and he and I battled it out to win. Getting to know Ron better eventually led to marriage, an unexpected but wonderful result of my first fundraising endeavor!
When our daughters were young, I was a stay-at-home mom, which gave me the opportunity to consider a second career. Although my professional experience was in recreation programming, I wanted a change. During this time, I volunteered and served on different nonprofit boards. Somehow, I always ended up on the fundraising or stewardship committees.
When I was ready to return to the paid workforce, those who knew me suggested I consider fundraising. My first job in the field was as a development associate for a crisis pregnancy center and maternity home. There, the job focused on organizing special events. Although this is ONE way to raise funds, I wanted to learn more about development as a profession. In addition to reading books and attending seminars, I earned an Executive Certificate in Religious Fundraising from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.
In the meantime, I was open to using what I had learned to help the Church. The St. Paul Catholic Center served as a traditional parish for 800 families, including ours, and the Newman Center for 3,000 students at Indiana University. The pastor had looked at successful campus ministry models and realized that the parish could do a better job of ministering to the students. While money isn’t the ONLY thing a campus ministry needs to thrive, better funding offers better ministry options. I convinced the pastor to hire me, and worked there for 13 years. During that time, I was privileged to witness the transformational power of prayer and leadership, combined with the generous gifts of those who shared in the mission of forming the future leaders of our church and society with the wisdom of our Catholic faith.
My first contact with the Petrus team was at a Catholic Campus Ministry Association event. I loved how they worked with clients, from the new and very small, to the growing and established. Their philosophy reflected my own. There are “best practices” that we can learn to work along with God as he reaches into the hearts of our benefactors. Six years ago, I became a part-time consultant. Today, I am now employed full-time and get to help clients fine-tune their vision, design strategies for successful fundraising and program development, and train new Petrus consultants. I LOVE what I do. My clients have been from Boise, Idaho to New York City, and every place in between.
Over the years, I’ve learned that development is an active pursuit. You have to go out there, meet people, and LISTEN to what’s important to them. You can then help them discover how your ministry intersects with what they value.
Development IS NOT a “sales job” to convince people to make donations. Rather it is to accompany benefactors on a journey where they find meaning and purpose. Development shows people how their own personal story intersects with a greater purpose beyond what they can do on their own. Development helps them reflect on the blessings in their own lives and share what they have to bring blessings to others.
Also, I’ve learned that people give differently during different circumstances and seasons of their lives, and as development professionals we have to adapt. When our family was younger, we did not have much to give and we directed our giving primarily to our parish. Today, we are able to give in a way that reflects our concern for social justice, particularly the need for a good education. Our family values education, and believes it an antidote to generational poverty and a basic way to address many of the social justice issues of our time.
In addition, because my brother is a recovering addict and now works for a nonprofit in addiction recovery, we support organizations that help those struggling with addiction. Helping a loved one move beyond addiction or illness toward a life of meaning and purpose shares the unconditional love of Christ with those who are stigmatized by society.
Ultimately, my goal is to become a saint in the Kingdom, and I believe fundraisers have an honored place there! We are participating in the Kingdom right now when we make personal gifts and help others discover the grace and blessings of generosity. Philanthropy brings about tangible and transformational changes in our ministries, communities, and the world. We share in an empowering, noble, and holy profession.
What have you learned about development through the years? What season of life or values direct your personal giving?